The English language is amazing. I fell in love with it as a young child, wondering at the plethora of words that could be constructed from 26 letters. The different sounds that flowed as consonants and vowels worked together seemed incredible to my young mind. I have never lost that sense of wonder and still love to weave letters and words together in such a way as to touch those who read them.
As writers, we take words and by combining them, tell stories, set scenes and build atmosphere. As our words flow into readers’ minds, they create an inner world that they can escape to as they read our stories. I always pray when I write, asking God to help me with fresh ideas that will resonate with my audience. In the case of my latest novel, Broken Shells, the whole story-line unfolded on a road trip. I was driving along the East Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, past neat rows of grape vines, turquoise seas and grey beaches and in my mind this became the backdrop to the story of Taylor and Logan.
Once the creative spark has been ignited, I work on cultivating it. With Broken Shells, I wrote several pages of notes about my characters. I developed a soft spot for Donny, a young man with Down Syndrome and from a small role at the beginning of the story, he ended up being a significant part of the book. Logan and Taylor also developed over the weeks and by the time the story was done, I knew far more about them than was ever revealed in the book. By cultivating this type of knowledge, our characters come out as flesh and blood, real and believable. Take time to cultivate them and bring them to life.
I learned many years ago that writing the story is just the beginning. For it to reach its full potential, it needs input. This is where collaboration comes in. I have beta readers who read the competed manuscript and comment on it. These are not professionals, but rather people who love reading. Broken Shells went to several such people before I submitted it to the Rose & Crown New Novel Competition 2012. To my joy it placed first in the contest but the initial report back was that there were areas that needed to be rewritten. Fast forward to late 2015 when it was undergoing the editing process. Two editors went through the manuscript and marked errors, things that didn’t tie up, and weaknesses in my writing. Back and forward it went until we were satisfied it was the best it could be. It then went to another person who checked it for accuracy, dates, time line and other such details. Only then was it ready to go to print. While it remained my story and work, I was able to improve it greatly by collaborating with others.
Learning to write well is a lifelong process and as I look back over the decades, I see how the stages of creativity, cultivation and collaboration have improved my work. Twenty six letters, countless words, God’s touch, and help from people around us. What a wonderful way to bring life and inspiration to our world.