Ryan M. Shelton author of The Mentor
There’s a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip where Bill Watterson, the strip’s genius creator, gave us writers an epiphany. In the particular strip I am thinking of, Calvin, the strip’s mischievous little boy, has a story to write, but he’s playing in the sandbox instead, “waiting for inspiration.” When prodded further by his make-believe tiger, Hobbes, about what mood that requires, Calvin responds with, “last minute panic.” Like Calvin, I too seek inspiration, and am not so good at using it.
Long ago I read Stephen King’s On Writing, his step-by-step manual for writers. In it, he stresses that writing novels is a job. Keep the same hours every day, don’t stop until the goal has been set, put the headphones on and drink lots of beer. Well, early on I kept to those very principles, keeping banking hours at the computer while listening to John Denver and substituting coffee for beer. I pumped out a lot of paragraphs doing this. Then I had kids.
9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. turned into 4:00 A.M. to whenever the baby woke up. John Denver turned into any heavy metal that would keep me awake, and the coffee turned into shots of espresso lined up on my writing desk like whiskey shots at an old saloon. It’s the same thing after the kids go to bed.
For me it’s a matter of getting “plugged in” to the story, which is not easy when I am tired. Like Calvin, one hundred percent of the battle is just getting started.
Once I do start writing, that’s when it gets exciting for me. I look at creative writing the same way King does, essentially as daydreaming with a keyboard. I try not to plot or have an ending in mind. Instead I place a character or characters into a situation, and to use King’s words, “watch them work themselves out.” This works well for suspense. In my novel, The Mentor (Martin Sisters Publishing, 2013) I had no idea whether or not Vincent, the main character, was going to win the big game at the end. If the author doesn’t know how the story is going to end, the audience probably won’t have a clue either.