Every day brings new writing challenges for me.
The challenge may be as simple as finding time to write, or as complicated as figuring out which project needs my attention.
Writing became so necessary to my sense of self, that I could not abide muddling through writer’s block. I could not stand what always feels like an utter loss of creativity.
So I began working on more than one story at a time. That way if I am stuck with one project, I can work on another.
I must add that I wasn’t always this exuberant of a writer though.
When the Dam Burst
I decided to study business in college (biggest mistake of my life).
I hadn’t truly realized my talent for writing at the time. Writing was merely a hobby, an escape from the pressures of classes, homework, and roommate angst.
It was in my dorm room that I began the first project that was, really and truly, from my heart.
It wasn’t a school assignment; it wasn’t a relief from the mundanity of a summer job.
It simply came to me.
In fact, it came so fast, I spent several hours at a stretch working on it. My grades might or might not have suffered as a result… that’s a story for another day.
The book was a fantasy novel.
At the time, I had no idea what the various genres were. I didn’t know beans about publishing. I’d never even heard of the “Chicago Manual of Style”.
I just wrote.
I dove headlong into the world of my creation, crafting the adventures of my main character, Taekaera, Heir of Taemarin the Great.
I created other characters that were key to her progress.
1 – Lord Keistan, high councilor of the Guild of Magic of Azurra and her ever-patient teacher..
2 – Prince Duotorvan of Azurra, (the only child of King Duonomio) her love interest.
3 – The primary antagonist is Shaddron, an evil mage from the rival overseas kingdom of Tellis. Shaddron seeks to control Taekaera, thereby commanding the destiny of both kingdoms.
4 – As the story evolved, I decided that Shaddron would need help in his nefarious schemes, so I created a traitor within the guild. Taekaera’s school rival, Maevin.
Aside from these, there’s a host of other characters, each adding their own flavor and personality to the story.
It has been difficult all these years keeping the story on track with so much history. At present, one of my key difficulties is that Keistan’s story seems to have overtaken Taekaera’s!
That was not my intention in the least, though everything that happens to him is just as vital to the plot as Taekaera’s experiences.
From this one story, an entire world has evolved.
There are three books in the initial trilogy detailing Taekaera’s battle against the dark forces of Tellis, a few follow-up stories, one backstory spinoff for Keistan, and a few other bits and pieces that have yet to develop.
That is just for Azurra.
As the years have passed, I’ve had other characters and ideas come to mind that didn’t fit for Azurra, so they became their own stories. Their own kingdoms and struggles.
Those kingdoms are now part of the world of Azurra.
Seven kingdoms, all springing from the same ancient roots, who will eventually find each other in an apocalyptic struggle to save their world from the complete loss of all magic.
So many stories springing from one writing spree. Where did all of it come from?
To be perfectly and completely honest… I have no idea.
As a rule, the high fantasy genre tends to be very… ahem… adult in its subject matter. I think that was part of my initial inspiration.
When I created this book, it was back in the day when strong female characters were few and far between, and when they did exist, it was usually in companionship with or as a supporting character to a male main character.
I wanted a strong woman as my main character. A woman of great integrity, one that could be a role model for my own girls.
I didn’t want a woman toughened, hardened and bitter by some overly tragic past. In other words, I didn’t want a male in women’s armor any more than I wanted a sex object with a sword.
Taekaera comes from humble beginnings, a simple girl from a mountain village. The quintessential unlikely hero.
And yet, as I created the story, I knew that it couldn’t be so simple as writing a series of battles interspersed with backstory flashbacks.
There had to be more to it.
As the war progresses, Taekaera has to do some serious soul-searching. She has to work through moments of childish fear and stubbornness as she is confronted with the utter horror of war.
Aside from the obvious necessity of protecting her people, what right does she have to hurt the men of the army sent against her? Men who are, for the most part, conscripted into the army of Tellis by their brutal king. They’re just as much victims as the people of Azurra, and she’s left with a serious quandary.
How to defeat the threat without simply destroying everyone and everything.
A Lesson to be Learned
The first version of this book has undergone some revisions.
Many, many revisions.
In the last twenty years, it has grown and expanded, the characters have become fully realized people, much more than mere names, and the land itself has a rich history and culture far beyond the few years covered in the pages of the book.
As I’ve worked on this and successive projects, I have found that my greatest challenge as an author is to not let the story simply run away with itself.
It’s too easy to get so caught up in the writing of the various scenes, the fearsome battles, the colorful and intricate setting descriptions, that you don’t realize that your story has become nothing more than a string of barely related scenes with no overarching plot goal.
Where is the story going?
Is this just another David versus Goliath struggle between rival kingdoms?
Is this a political commentary on the morality of war?
Maybe it is an overly long girl-power trope with a nod to the power of the dedicated mentor thrown in for variety.
What, after all, is the actual story?
You’d think that after twenty years I’d have this figured out.
Truth be told, the battle between good and evil really is the thread that holds the fabric of the whole together. But the question of who is good, and who is evil, gets some serious contemplation.
Taekaera wants to save her people, but she doesn’t want to hurt innocent Tellistians in the process. She befriends a Tellistian princess who is just as invested in saving Tellis as Taekaera is in saving Azurra, and they must strike a balance that serves both.
As a writer and a storyteller, our ultimate goal must be the delivery of a message.
It may be something as simple as “war sucks.”
What that message is, how it is delivered, depends on our style. We must also realize that our readers are as varied as we are, and not everyone will like or even understand our message.
That shouldn’t stop us, either.
When all is said and done, if you have a story to share, just sit down and write.
Your story may make absolutely no sense at first, but that’s okay. There is a reason the first draft is called the “rough” draft!
Write it anyway.
Your journey as a writer may be a long one, and it may take you places you don’t expect.
Enjoy the journey!
Where is Aria Today?
I recently published my second book, a speculative fiction novel called Gladiator and the sequel is already in progress (That’s usually how I write. I never write just one book before moving on to the follow-up stories).
This project was a definite step outside of my comfort zone, as my first love was high fantasy. Worldbuilding with magic is so much fun, but I’ve found that stretching myself beyond one genre has really helped me to develop as a writer.