I got back from a family vacation over Christmas and on Facebook one of my writer friends asked the question, how much writing everyone had accomplished. I initially went to answer none, and rethought the answer.
Our family vacation had us very busy in Kauai, driving from one side of the island to the other to take in the sites, snorkel, swim and eat Jo Jo’s shave ice. And while I didn’t get a significant word count number to brag to my friends and fellow writers about, I still went with a writer’s brain, itching to put fingers to the keys as I soaked in the atmosphere.
Let me first explain that my husband’s company has a couple of jobs on Kauai and I had laid down the law, telling him in no uncertain terms he could NOT go to any of his job sites and work during our Christmas vacation. The only time he could go would be to show us a job site of his choice so we could see where he had flown to seven times during the course of 2016. And he remained true to his word, which I know came at great sacrifice to his workaholic self. So I knew I had to be careful and also be respectful to him and not pull out my computer or iPad during the long drives and do my work—writing—lest he accuse me of being hypocritical.
So what were my alternatives?
Write What You Can
Writing on the plane was fair game. After all, my husband was sitting in a separate row with two of our boys and I was in another row with our other two boys, so what he didn’t know . . . . The problem was, I had to turn my iPad to airplane mode, making my keypad inoperable. And let me state here, that I’m probably the only adult who follows the rules and puts their electronics in airplane mode on a plane. Am I right? I felt like my father, typing on the iPad screen with my pointer fingers. The only difference is, my dad types in all caps so he doesn’t have to worry about punctuation. It gives you the feeling that he’s shouting at you in all of his correspondence. Here is recent email from my dad:
HI ROBIN I JUST GOT A CALL FROM THE HOSPITAL. I AM PICKING UP YOUR MOM AT 9.30 TOMORROW. SHE PAST ALL HER TESTS QUICKLY IN ORDER TO ESCAPE HOSPITAL FOOD DAD
I didn’t last long typing with my two fingers, but I got some done on my work-in-progress until impatience set in and I closed up my iPad. By that time, the seat belt sign was on because of turbulence and I couldn’t get up to get a notebook and pen in order to write old school. I vowed to make sure and put a notebook and pen in the pocket of the seat in front of me on the next flight. The flight was short, but wrote three pages toward the beginning of a story which has been on the backburner for a long time. Three pages doesn’t sound like much, but I was excited because this helped me to solidify how I want the story to begin. And although I’m no math genius, I know three is greater than zero.
Write Where You Can
Don’t tell my husband, but I snuck my notebook and pen with me one day to the beach, and when he went on a walk with my kids, I actually wrote about that moment of having time to myself, honing my writing skills and making observations of the sights and sounds around me. Then I added another page to the beginning of the story that I had started on the plane before my boys returned from their walk.
Make Notes of Writing Ideas
Now it’s confession time and I hope you’ll forgive me. Not a sinning kind of confession. I’ll save that for another day, but another kind of personal confession. I use the bathroom a lot. Like I mean a lot. Don’t worry, though, I’ve been to the doctor and he’s cleared me and given me a clean bill of health. I drink water all day, hence all of my frequent bathroom breaks. As a result, I saw the inside of many of Kauai’s beach bathrooms along with some interesting graffiti. It was in some of the restrooms that an idea for a book struck me. Sounds odd right? But you never know when the writing muse will hit.
When you see something or someone interesting, make a record of it so you don’t forget it. You never know when it will become a story or become part of a story.
No, I don't have plans to write a book about demons as a result. But what if you saw a message on a wall or in graffiti and it was specifically directed to you? And those messages kept on coming?
Write a Scene
While we were in the airport on the way to Kauai, I overheard someone say, “To make a long story short . . .” and I thought to myself, “What if that person doesn’t know how to make a long story short?” I opened up my iPad and quickly wrote a scene of an old man talking to a couple of kids. The one kid tunes the old man out only to tune back in when he hears the old man say, “And that was how I came face to face with Hitler.” He is horrified to realize he missed the only worthwhile story Mr. Barker has ever told.
I don’t know when I’ll ever use this scene, only that I had fun writing it based on a fleeting comment I overheard. And you never know when scenes or people you notice can come in handy. For example, I can’t wait to use an exchange my husband once witnessed on an airplane when he was flying to Kauai between an eccentric lady sitting next to him and a flight attendant.
Flight Attendant: The last time I was called that was . . . never.
We spent a lot of time in the car. Perhaps too much time in the car. But it gave me an opportunity to observe the island—how spread out things are, what a variety of vegetation exists and the types of plants I found intriguing and interesting. I discovered trees I hadn’t come across before like the rainbow eucalyptus and the Cook Pine. And even though I had been to Kauai several years ago, I had forgotten how the whole island is covered in roosters, or that they have a protected bird called the nene. It’s illegal to touch sea turtles or the monk seal and as soon as these animals hit land, signs are posted around them to remind beach goers to leave the animals alone.
Why are observations important? As we understand the world around us better, the intricacies, the details, and the possibilities, we can be inspired to create more realistic stories with amazing characters, fantasy stories with complex cultures and worlds with depth, and produce books that uplift, inspire, astound and leave a lasting impression.
So if you can’t write thousands of words, write your ideas, then build on them little by little, bit by bit until your idea has grown into a full-blown story, ready to share.
Be sure and check out the latest book in Robin's YA fantasy series, Azetha Rising. Now available in ebook and paperback at amazon.com.