(This is part I of a two-part series on how I write. For part II, please click here.)
It’s the question fans always ask: “How do you write your stories?” Writers say they hate this question, and probably some really do. Because the writing process can be a fragile structure of instincts, research, emotion, and whatever talent we’re fortunate to possess, held together with the proverbial spit and bailing wire. Sometimes we’re afraid the whole thing might tumble down if we look at it too hard!
But writers also love this question, because however genuinely modest he or she may be, nearly any writer loves talking about their own writing. Or more precisely: how they got the core idea for the story, the bursts of inspiration that pushed it forward, the key insight that helped tie the narrative together!
So: How do I write my stories? Well, first of all, I still write my first draft of any new novel by hand, usually sitting in my study on the top floor of my house, with the view of the gorgeous Colorado mountains keeping me company. Feeling the texture of the paper and ink, and seeing the story progress down the lines of the page, gets my creative juices flowing. Even if I have to ice my left wrist at the end of a long day, it’s worth it.
Before I’ll even start to write, though, I’ll usually create a lengthy description of each character. That helps me to “see” the characters in my mind, hear their voices, know their good and bad sides, and start getting to know them and care about them. I also need a big question or two that needs answering, like “Can spirituality exist without religion?” or “How can a person overcome their deepest hurts?” or “What difference can one person make?”
Finally, I need a place that feels so inviting, mysterious, and beautiful that I’d love to travel there myself! If you’ve read any of my books, you know that the places are just as important as the people in my stories. And while there are many inviting towns (and some unfriendly ones) and even a city or two in my novels, the wild natural world is where my characters have most of their adventures.