Author Brian Wilkinson on the Challenges of Writing

The Dreaming is Easy

We asked our new YA author Brian Wilkinson what part of the writing process came most naturally to him, and what presented more of a challenge. Read on for his inspiring answers

Which aspects of the writing process come most naturally to you?

Writing is a strange process that comes naturally but it needs a little coaxing. You can’t force writing, at least for me, because that never works. Forcing writing is a little bit like trying to lose weight by sitting yourself down in front of a piece of cake when you haven’t eaten in a week and saying “DON’T EAT THIS.” It just doesn’t work.

It has to be a state of mind. If I clear my head and my thoughts and just allow myself to daydream, then the ideas start coming. Usually they bubble up in moments that the characters will experience or a place they’ll visit. Then my daydream goes to how they will deal with those places. What they might say. How they would act. At this point, I’m not writing anything. I don’t commit to anything. Eventually, the daydream gets more and more elaborate and more and more interesting to me. At that point, if I don’t write it down then it’s often lost forever. There have been more than a few ideas that have gone that way. It’s not that I didn’t want them, but often they come when it’s inconvenient to write them down… usually I’m driving, on a long walk, sleeping/half asleep, or otherwise engaged. The trick is to NOT forget or to jot down the ideas in rough so that you can play with them later.

The dreaming is easy. Conveying that dream takes a bit more work.

Dialogue is easy. Everything is a conversation or an examination of the world around us. Think about every conversation you’ve ever had and the twists and turns it can take. I just have to have that conversation for two or more. Sometimes just for one where the character is arguing with him or herself.

Something I learned from people like Joss Whedon (Buffy/Angel), is that each character needs to have a reason to be there. They all need a function, a quirk, or a trait that sets them apart. Then you build on that trait. Action adjusts to the quirks and their takes. Stories adjust to how the characters would relate. How does the jock get along with the princess? How does the criminal interact with the priest? Already you can see the differing dynamics come into play and that’s where the true gems come from. Then the plot directs the flow of these characters and personalities around. Don’t get me wrong… the plot is key. But without good characters to drive it, you don’t care, or you don’t invest enough energy to think about that book or story once you’ve put it down and walked away.

Which aspects of the writing process present more of a challenge? How do you overcome them?

Much like anything, it’s getting into the head space. First thing on Monday morning, you don’t much feel like working as hard as you can. You just had the weekend off! You complain, you moan, you’re tired. It’s a drag. Even if you like your job, forcing yourself to do it is no fun.

So, how do I get over that? Usually I go for a walk, go for a drive, or do anything where my mind can wake up. I let the ideas come, and then by the time I have a head full of stories I not only want to write them down, I NEED to write them down. Then I’m good to go.

The biggest challenge is to make sure you are passionate about what you’re doing. Not everything is going to be your best work, but what matters is that it’s work worth doing. As long as it feels good and you enjoy the process, then you push forward. Always keep moving forward.

On that note, perhaps the final challenge, at least for me, is momentum. I can get into a story, a mode, and have all the characters and their motivations and their voices humming and produce like crazy. But life, sometimes life interferes and you have to stop. If I stop, it can be for long stretches as I deal with my two young children or my full time career as a teacher or for the other obstacles that life throws at you. The longer the time, the harder it is to come back. The easier it is to put it off for a day.

I don’t really believe that I need to write every day to make it work, but I do need to dream a little. Daydream a bit. Jot things down. Then, when it’s time to write and the time is there, it’s a river that I happily ride down.

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Which aspects of the writing process present a challenge for you? How do you overcome them?


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