How I Wrote my First Stories

Writing my stories has been a challenge, a joy and a frustrating long amount of time and yet I can not stop. I wondered if people might be interested in how I came up with the stories that I am writing. I'm writing two at the moment (Story 1 & Story 2). I don't actually want to go into the details of what my stories are about as they are not published yet but still I think the processes of how I came up with the ideas within them might be interesting to some.
The General Store and Me

From time to time I had come up with little ditty's that I would write down but I never took them seriously until one year (along time ago) I made a model of a General Store. (Story 1) It was created in a time when everyone had gone away on holidays and I was left to run my parents waterlily nursery. Every night I would set the log fire ablaze, put on a Miss Marple video (starring Joan Hickson, my favorite) and make my model. When I created the main character, who lives in my imaginary forest, I had to consider what did he do. How can he move within his store and his house that sat on top of it. I must admit I got a bit carried away with it all and in the end I even gave him an astronomy tower (because I like looking at the stars, the universe). It sits on the very top of his house. It even has actual miniature star charts of the southern hemisphere. (My eldest daughter's idea) I also created a vege patch and as I thought of his life I realised that he wouldn't have the time to tend it so I made it overgrown with weeds.

I've just added an image for you
to look at. I do not
have an image of my book
yet as it is not published.
Anyway, I digress as usual.  While doing all of this, month after month, little bits of stories would pop into my mind. If I remember one of them it was that my main character would sit in his astronomy tower and look out upon a forest that he desperately wanted to go into but he just couldn't quite bring himself to step out the front door and so he stayed in his comfort zone. Isn't there a Buddhist saying, something about the hardest thing to do in a journey is to take the very first step, or something like that. Anyway, the more I created the model the more 'bits' turned up until I thought I should write them down.

NOTES:- I've looked at my notes (That's a thing. ALWAYS keep your scraps of info on how you came up with your idea for your story and PUT A DATE on them. Keep every bit of writing you do. You made need it one day to prove you wrote it. A lawyer told me that one time.)

When coming up with a story you need your characters to do something. They can't just sit around or travel, safely, from one place to another without something happening.

It turns out that the first sentence is the life or death of a book, so I was told anyway. I allow a book a bit more time than that! I think its because I understand the effort that went into writing the book in the first place.

The very first sentence that I wrote for this story (Story 1) was
'Absentmindedly Archibald spat a pip over the top of the railings.'
At the end of two years it had not changed much.
'Archibald absentmindedly spat a small black pip over the top of the wooden railings.' This I fear however, will not be the sentence that ends up in my published book even though I happen to like it very much.

Starting off with that sentence I then asked myself, 'Why was he sitting spitting pips over a railing?' Good question. There could be hundreds, if not thousands, of reasons but in my case I made it that he was remembering something. I then recounted what it was he was remembering, eventually bringing the story neatly back to him sitting spitting pips over the railings. I then took the story on from there.

The first sentence of Story 2 has changed completely, I think about five times, depending on where I decided to start the story. With the help of friends and the Prana Writers my story has now started several hours earlier which puts my human and her dog in a completely different place. I am extremely happy with were they are and now within the first two sentences everyone knows exactly who they are and where they are and why they are there at that point in time. It does not say what has happened in the past and what is going to happen in the future.

(Story 1) As the story progressed I introduced other characters into it and eventually had my main character leave the store and do something. I  had to decide how many characters were going to travel with him or was he going to go on his own. I made it that he left with others, five in all. Why did he leave? You have to know the reason for this. (I thought I did. Look down to THE REASON FOR BEING!) I had to figure out were my characters were going to travel within the forest. What were they going to eat and what was going to happen to them.

This was my solution. A tree
full of pools of water but each
pool had something in it that
wanted to eat them.
For some reason I decided that my charters had to go through an area that had no water. So I had to come up with a solution. I have found that as you write and imagine stuff that you tend to get your characters into a few pickles. It is then up to you to get them out of it in a plausible way. So even though I had given them a drink I decided to make it not that easy to actually get it. They had to fight for it!

At the end of two years of writing I had ended up with my characters being in a dangerous position and felt that I couldn't just leave them in it as it was a children's book after all! I couldn't for the life of me think of how they could be in any other situation than the one I had put them in and so I put the book down and went off and did other things, hoping that one day I would figure out what to do about it.

One of those things that I did was start up another story. (Story 2) This is the story that I presented to Jeff Gilberthorpe (see tab 'How I Started Writing') and I presented it to the Gold Coast Council's Write for Kids Workshop. The members of which became Prana Writers on the third year. This is the story that our teacher Louise Cusack (on the 1st year) said 'nice BUT it needs work.' So while I worked on it the next year rolled around and I had to present a completed manuscript to my writing group. 

Prana writers (four people missing from
the photo) with Sheryl Gwyther.
The only manuscript I had was my first story about my character in the General Store. The only problem was that after two years my characters situation had not changed. I had not been able to get them out of their predicament and so I decided to not worry about it. I just worked out how to get them out based on that situation.
Fortunately for me Garry and I went to Philip Island. (I live on the Gold Coast, Qld, so that meant that it took us three days to get down, three back and four there. He volunteered as a flag marshal for the motorbike GP's and I spent the whole time writing my story.) I finished it just as we made it home and the writing group were asking for my manuscript.
I tentatively e-mailed it out to everyone and weeks later sat waiting for the verdict. When the meeting came around and I sat in the room surrounded by all these people who were going to give me feed back on my story, my baby, I was alright until Louise said,
'Now, Nicola if you need a break just ask.'
I thought, 'Strewth! What am I'm letting myself in for?'
I sat with a smile on my face, well I think I smiled, and listened to the comments everyone had. One being that the ending needed work because I had obviously rushed it.How did they know that?
It was a shock to listen to their comments but I kept on smiling. In-fact I think by the end of it all my smile was glued to my face. I couldn't think straight. Even though they liked it, all I could hear was what was wrong with it. There was a suggestion made that maybe I could spice it up a bit by having slave traders turn up and take away a couple of my characters. Well that really broke the ice and I breathed again as others protested and we all laughed about it.
I took all the written comments home, grabbed a glass of red and sat on the lounge. Took a deep breath and read through them again. It wasn't that bad and most of the comments they made were valid.

I had to let all that information swim around in my sub-conscious for a bit and so I picked up the second story (Story 2) again and I am happy to say that it is now (may 2014) on it very final edit. My first story has to wait but I must admit that I can't wait to get writing on it and sort out the problem's I have created for my beloved character who can't wait to be back in his bed in his store with his pet hogging all the covers. (2014) I have actually tried to write it but I have found that Archibald doesn't want his story told yer. I spent two solid months reading the first page over and over again so I decided to start writing my third story. The sequel to Story 2. I wrote a whole chapter in a couple of days!

Because I've always thought it would be great if I could write something that would end up as a movie I considered a comment that I read sometime ago about The Dark Crystal by Jim Henson (my most favorite personality). The article said that they thought that the movie would have succeeded if it had had a human as its main character not a puppet character. So I decided that my second story was going to have a human.
I needed her to be in the forest so she could interact with the characters in it. This proved to be very difficult because my main characters lived in the tops of the trees and my human was on the forest floor!
I really felt I needed the reader to see the occupants of the forest and what they did and how they lived. In the end I had to achieve this through flash backs and memories of my main forest character.
My human only actually spends a little bit of time in the forest, the rest of it is spent in her home.

In Story 2 I realised, when I told someone about it, that the back bone of my story was my human and her dog learning what the real meaning of friendship was. I think this is because, in my real life, I have felt that a lot of people I have met didn't actually know what it meant themselves and we all paid a bitter price for it.
In Story 1 I found that I had written the story with one idea. That being that my character would actually stretch his wings and go out of his comfort zone and leave his store but in the end, and ONLY because of the feed back I received from the group of fellow writers did I realise that my story was NOT THAT AT ALL! It was something completely different!

EDITING:- The way I edit is that I print out my story and go and sit in a nice quiet spot, beach (until other people turn up), under a tree on a mountain
(until the rest of the world wants to do the same.) In the end I find I do best when I can go with Garry on the tourist bus he drives. There is nothing for me to do but write.
I go through my chapters (sometimes five in a day) scribbling words all over the paper. I then come home put that all on the computer and print that off and then edit that version. I keep doing this until there are no more edits or only a couple. I am NOT a person to worry that I have written the wrong words. That I can't think of the right words to say. I find that if I just delve into the story then the words start writing themselves. If I can not think of a word I just write ........ One day it will turn up.

CHARACTERS:- I have found, as I was told it was to be, it is impossible to write about a character in your story unless you relate to them. Like them, hate them, feel something for them. This 'feeling' then comes out in your writing. Just as when people sing, paint, dance, create a model humans can 'feel' the energy that has gone into it. They can see it, feel it, taste it, hear it and when that is missing we know and you wonder why did they even bother.
If you are the one creating something then have passion for it, live it, feel it, taste it, hear it, smell it, listen to it or don't even bother. It will NEVER be what you want. Also realise that your not the same person you were yesterday and you will not be the same person tomorrow, next week , next month or next year.

It is an unfortunate truth that most people have not achieved the things they have wanted in their lives. This means that most, not all, will pull down ANYONE who tries to achieve their goals. IF you learn ANYTHING from my blog then learn this!
 Follow your dreams but be careful. Not all roads you take will lead you there. Be sensible, be realistic, consider your options. Bring your dreams down to a do able thing. Like I have done. My dream of a huge miniature world that we could all walk into requires at least $250 million dollars!! Not impossible these days but also not that easy to get and requires timing, luck and a lot of hard work. A more doable thing is a much smaller miniature model. Something that one person, me, can make in a life time. (It is unfortunate that it has take half of my life time to work this out.) THIS is what I am doing BUT I have had an uncountable number of people try to pull me down. Stop me from progressing. Tell me that my ideas are stupid. That I needed to become sensible. Be a realist like everyone else. be a sheep, follow the flock. I have been one of the worst to stop myself and it has taken many years to overcome this. I suffered from crippling depression for over twenty years but even so for what ever reason whether I build my miniature village in the end or not I would not, could not stop myself from trying. Even so there are times when I doubt myself even now. 
I hope this has been of interest to you and maybe even a help.

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