Before I begin, i’d like to pitch a book to you. It’s called The Writer’s Journey – Mythic Structure for Writers, by Christopher Vogler. He follows Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces and translates it into structure for story telling. It’s no secret that Star Wars creator George Lucas was a huge fan of Joseph Campbell and structured the saga’s screenplays based on Campbell’s twelve stages of the hero’s journey. Interesting to see that Disney/Pixar, for example (there are many more), has adapted this story structure and uses it as a blue print for each and every one of their movies.
I’ve been thinking about my own journey over the last ten years. I have been writing actively since around 2000. I started out with a novel that quickly turned into a screenplay (just because I saw everything in camera angles and technicolor). That first script took three years to write. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I have about 30 versions of it. The final version almost got optioned by a producer in L.A. By almost I mean, she was just waiting for my signature. I ended up not doing it. I didn’t know anything about her and giving away the rights would take the script off the market for a year. Looking back now, I can clearly see that I wasn’t ready.
Then there were three more screenplays, including buying the rights to a novel and adapting it into a script (Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb). I got divorced in 2006 and while in therapy and going through some major changes (job, house, life, etc), I began to write short stories and poetry. That lasted until 2011 when I began to write The Three Feathers. The book was, in one sense, the culmination of those last ten years of writing.
Since then, I feel that I have come into my calling. It’s not perfect by any means but ones calling never is, in my opinion. It’s raw and rough around the edges and it’s inconsistent and sporadic at times. But I can’t deny that it’s grabbing me, more and more, pulling me into the writing stream and from there, opening worlds I had no idea existed inside me.
During 2013, I had been working on The Fourth Sage. It began as a small idea that I expanded throughout Camp NaNoWriMo last April. To be honest, I never doubted anything I have written so much as I did this one. The writing was a constant internal battle with the voice of doubt inside me, telling me to not even bother continuing. “Who told you that you can become a writer,” it said. In other places, it was more like, “this – all of this – makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. What are you, NUTS?”
Yesterday, after receiving my first beta-reader comment, I broke down. OK, not literally (I was still driving) but I realized that, trusting to just tell my characters’ story, despite the overwhelming doubt, was all that was needed. It was a small trust, in this case. A minuscule hint of trust, just to keep going and not to stop however dark the road ahead seemed to be. Throughout the writing, and in moments when the doubt had become overwhelming, I had heard Aries, my main character, in my head, “Just tell my story and don’t worry about the rest!” She actually said, “Just tell my god damn story and don’t worry about the rest!” Gotta love her.
So, anyway, yesterday was kind of a turning point for me. I feel as if part of me has reached the end of a tunnel and the world is opening up again. I also felt as if my characters had pulled me through as much as I had pulled them through their ordeal to the other side (sometimes I think us writers have a socially acceptable version of multiple personality disorder :-).
I also think that each book I finish closes a chapter on an aspect of myself. I’m convinced that we work through stuff while writing. It’s all us – the characters, the plot, the drama, etc. We are each character. The Fourth Sage is, in essence, a story about grabbing on to your destiny, as out of reach as it might seem to be. It’s about trusting that, even though you have only a very limited amount of information and you don’t seem to be in control at all at times, it might all just turn out okay in the end.
Until next time,