…and how does one begin?
The third definition of PILGRIMAGE at www.dictionary.com is: “any long journey, esp. one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose…” If you are like me I had to look up the word “votive” and it has to do with “vows or desires”. We all know a novelist is that rare and pretentious being whose core belief is that he can tell a story others will pay to read.
Therefore, the combined definition of a “novelist’s pilgrimage” reads something like this: “the endless, yet determined quest of an aspiring storyteller to find and entertain a paying audience.”
That’s my initial definition and I invite all to add, subtract, or offer their own comments.
While you are pondering such deep thoughts, let me introduce you to my own novelist’s pilgrimage or “What I intend to write about in this blog for the foreseeable future.”
I’ve always been a bookworm. At least that is what my neighborhood friends dubbed me after I repeatedly forsook their persistent invitations to play basketball or street football in favor of reading fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries, or horror. Instead of socializing with peers, on most days I spent the few minutes before school started and my 45 minutes at lunch in either the middle school or high school library browsing and reading and browsing some more in my quest to find the next great read. My epic fantasy education came later in my teens and early twenties when I discovered the heavyweights, some of which surprisingly I didn’t like very much.
So, what does all this reading have to do with anything?
I am going to go out on a fairly thick and safe limb here by saying that it is rare for an aspiring writer to NOT be a voracious reader. Stephen King said in his book, On Writing, and I paraphrase, that if you don’t read you can’t write. Period.
I was a reader first. Then at the age of 15, in my sophomore English class, we had a creative writing section. It was then and there that I discovered I had a knack for entertaining my peers and often discomfiting my teacher. As I recall, I was the only student in that class to always volunteer to read my story out loud to the class. During every story I read aloud, I became a lightning rod for all the reactions and comments from my peers. I absorbed their feedback as if it were pure energy for my burgeoning writer’s soul. I was otherwise the wallflower type and they never heard from me during or outside of class. The proverbial icing though, was the look of consternation on my poor teacher’s face as she realized she had unleashed a fiction writing Kraken on an unsuspecting world. She was a great teacher, and despite the expression on her face of having just bitten into an orange peel, she always gave positive, if not vanilla, feedback. If there was a point in my pre-adult life that was the genesis of my identity as a fiction writer, that year in sophomore English class in San Jose, California was it.
Fast forward two decades and change to the present time. This blog is part of my own pilgrimage to write and sell a novel length work of epic fantasy. My writer’s journey in some ways mirrors those of the protagonists in my first novel as they too are on a pilgrimage of sorts that will obviously be quite more exciting and dangerous than my own adventurers sitting before my Dell laptop. I have started chronicling my efforts one year into the life of this novel. I began world-building in August 2009 and began the first draft the week after Christmas of 2009. I am somewhere in the vast middle of the story, having written ~75,000 words. From this point forward, I will share a weekly glimpse into my processes and discoveries, my frustrations and problem-solving, and I expect I will learn quite a lot from others on the same journey.
I invite you to come with me on this odyssey. Perhaps we can give aid to each other along the way when the storms rage, and the seas froth, and the great wolves converge on the humble travelers on that lonely dirt road seeking only to tell stories of other worlds that are heard by a willing and receptive audience.
For the inaugural post of my ongoing novelist’s pilgrimage, I leave you with a final thought. If you want to write, write. If you want others to read what you write, write and share. If you want others to read AND like what you write, write and write and write ( this means learn as much as you can about the craft of writing) and then share what you write any way you see fit. I’ll talk about my approach to all this as the pilgrimage proceeds.
Until next week…