Introduced By Holly King
September is the month that signifies getting back to work. The summer is over, the holidays are over, school is starting again after the last (and longest) break of the year. The weather turns, the days get shorter, and you suddenly realise you don’t have as much time to finish that novel by year-end as you thought you did.
But what about the beginnings, and the journey of writing? We are all at different stages in our work, our creative lives, our stories – but how does your writing look from the moment you get the idea to the finished product you submit (to Monday Moments or any of our Write On! pages)?
Any creative who has finished a project will know that what you end up creating will often be worlds apart from the first draft. Take Sylvia Plath’s poem Ariel for example, where her many drafts of that poem were published, detailing the amount of re-writing and editing that goes into the craft. You can find some of the draft images online.
So, for this month’s theme, we’re looking at the writer and artist’s journey with their work, from inception to publication.
First up, Emily Inkpen tells us about her process:
Approaching The Page
Every writer has a different approach to writing. Even if you lined up every writer who pens exactly five hundred words a day, their thought processes, and the methods they employ before they start putting words on the page, would be different. For me, my approach to writing also changes depending on the type of project I’m working on. My writing habits and inspiration points are different when working on a novel, a short story, a script or a poem. However, there is a common ritual that runs through them all: putting on my headphones.
Headphones and earbuds close off the world and put me in my own mental space. Even when there’s no music playing, they muffle the outside world enough to make my mind my primary focus. And when I need help finding my rhythm, there’s music.
Some writers create a playlist for every book. I create a playlist for every main character.
When I’m writing an Isra chapter, or a Varian chapter, I’ll have their playlist on and it helps me to find their voice.
When I set out to write a novel, I don’t plan extensively. I describe my process as ‘the lighting of the beacons’. I can see the next point in the journey, but getting there can be a process of discovery, even if I always know where I’m going.
For me, momentum is key when approaching a big project. If I’m writing a chapter and I’m losing passion for it, I’ll bullet-point the rest and skip ahead. I know that, when I come back to it, I’ll have fresh eyes, fresh energy, and the words will flow.
With novel writing, I can dip in and out of it with relative ease. Do I have ten minutes?
Great, open the doc! Do I have two hours? Brilliant, let’s get some words down. In the midst of a big narrative, it doesn’t matter how long each writing session lasts and, for me, it’s the only medium where that’s the case. When it comes to a big narrative, I’m mentally immersed in it most of the time, so getting back into the rhythm is as natural as breathing.
With short stories, I have an image in my mind before I start. It’s an image of a world, or a collection of characters at a specific moment in time, and when it’s crystal clear, I can start. For me, a short story is about expanding on that visual. It’s a single beacon lighting its own mountaintop.
While music supports my novel writing, music often also directly inspires my short stories. An image that inspired one came from the first two tracks of Gareth Coker’s award-winning soundtrack to Ori And The Blind Forest. I thoroughly recommend checking it out!
Script writing for my audio drama, The Dex Legacy, is its own challenge. I can best describe it as writing a novella and a series of short stories at the same time. Each beacon must stand alone and be the focus, while drawing the listener on to the next.
Writing for a different medium is a collaborative process. When you write a novel, the novel is the end product. When you write an audio drama, the script is just the beginning. Next comes casting, directing, recording, and production. And naturally, every person involved will help to shape the project. It’s something some writers would struggle with, but I find it intensely exciting. Hearing your characters talking to you out loud for the first time is indescribably weird and wonderful!
With collaborative projects, it’s important to respect everyone involved. With The Dex Legacy, I’m the foundation, the actors are the heart, the producer is the world and the composer is the atmosphere. The collaboration is natural and surprising. The actors take my words and do amazing and unexpected things with them, and their performances affect how I write. After a whole season of listening to their voices, I write with them in mind and they still exceed my expectations and vision.
My creative partner and producer, Chris Gregory, does baffling things to bring the world to life through audio. Recording remotely during the pandemic meant dealing with different recording qualities, and what he did to bring it all together was amazing. Hopefully the challenge won’t be so great for Season Two!
With the soundtrack and theme, Allen Stroud took my example pieces and we talked about music in general. What he came up with was different to what I originally had in mind, and absolutely perfect. It captured the essence of the series and gave it a driving force that had been lacking up until that point.
As a whole, The Dex Legacy is a joint achievement and the story is shared. In many ways it is more because of it.
Every time I approach a new project, I embrace a new challenge. The best part is being consistently surprised by what changes and what stays the same, and I know there’s so much more to learn.
© Emily Inkpen, 2022
Connect with Emily on Twitter: @emilyinkpen, on Instagram: @emilyinkpen and at her website: www.thedexlegacy.com
Next, Patricia Bidi has interpreted the theme into a work of art, using the quote below :
They were worlds apart in everything but the simplicity of their humanity, and so they were really not apart at all. Paul Gallico, American novelist, short story and sports writer.
H. B. O’Neill shows how even the prompt of Worlds Apart can lead a writer down many different avenues:
This morning, I woke from a diligent dream about a cunning scheme in which I would royally regale on a suggested theme with such majestic steam as to spawn manifold meme, with a headache.
Maybe you shouldn’t take your work to bed with you?
Maybe I had unconsciously been hoping the Night Shamans of Lucid Filtration and Insight Flirtation would be generous with their wisdomly gifts?
I’d been tasked with an impossible, you see.
Ha! And what a ridiculously pessimistic statement! As Mark Twain once stated “They did not know it was impossible so they did it.” He had a point – maybe perception is nine tenths of our flaw?
So okay, let’s agree it was not an impossible, merely a challenge. A gift…of the brain-twist variety.
I pondered some more, “Worlds Apart…” it was a common phrase, but what did it actually mean? I was panicked, as I realised I had no idea. This world and the next? Earth and Valhalla? Gaia and Elysium? Norwich and Nirvana?
It had seemed a straightforward request: “Can you write a piece on the theme Worlds Apart please?”
“Of course. Certainly. No problem.”
I’d answered confidently and without doubt. But later, when I actually thought about it…
My nephews live in Australia, but that’s only a hemisphere or so apart, half a world apart at most. And nowadays we have the internet and ‘family Zooms’ so… I dismissed distance from the Pondery List.
Next, I thought upon the Interior World and the Exterior World. The Dream World and the Reality World.
The Makes Sense and the Senseless World. The world we’ve created and the worlds we creatively imagine.
Then I recalled that, in football, you can score a “Worldy”. You genuinely can. In Commentary World you can, at least. Perhaps we don’t challenge expressions as much as we should? Or spellings? Maybe it’s spelt ‘worldie’? And maybe that would be a fine pen name for an authorial type publishing an in-depth discussion on the art of oratory? Worldie O’Neill And The Origin Of The Speeches.
Hmm. A bit off-topic? The World Of Digression? Welcome to my world. And here’s some more:
How about all the many worlds within a world? The Fashion World, the World Of Politics, the World Of Finance, the World Of Science, The World According To Garp (well worth a read). Then there’s the expressions: “A whole world of difference.” A world-sized comparison? Between being lonely and being alone? Ah, the Philosophical World…
I looked up the definition (I’d hoped it might help). World: – the earth and all its countries and peoples. The dictionary only mentioned the one world. But that mention of the countries made me think about World Wars. And First, Second and Third worlds. And then to wonder if our one world would forever be split into sub-worlds?
Then came the expression: “He’s got the whole world in his hands” and: “We’ve got the whole world at our fingertips.” I couldn’t even begin to ponder the World Of Wide Web and what that has done for (or to) Our World, as, by now, my headache had significantly worsened.
And then I re-read the email and realised the question was specifically about individual writers being worlds apart in their process and approach. And the pain in my head intensified. I couldn’t begin to imagine. But, of course, we do imagine and therein lies the crux. No two imaginations will ever be the same. It’s what makes life, the universe and scribbling so interesting.
Worlds Apart – it’s an interesting theme. Hopefully, others can make more sense of it. I can only apologise for my failure. I’m back to bed and the embrace of the Surreal World conjured by the Dream World. Where all things are fathomable. At least until waking.
© H. B. O’Neill, 2022
Lastly, Danny Baxter creates a piece based on characters that are quite literally worlds apart. You can also read this poem as an exploration of how writers must be able to get inside each characters’ head, and how they may try to develop an understanding initially.
At the end of my world… a little bit further… Then, the start of your world.
Worlds apart, even…but at a shared location. Same room, different view…
Now locked into orbit.
Theories and projections, calculations and rumination. Aspects of my perceived reality attempt to mentally articulate a transliteration of the vision of you from my optical receptors into categorisations.
I mean, I recognise the representation of your projected image, but what I would describe you as isn’t necessarily how you may classify yourself.. and vice versa,.. possibly .. but no current confirmations
Completely different communication, completely different body language.
I wave and say, “Hi”. Universal hand waving gesture, I have presumed…
The Great Divide.
Brace for impact.
When circumstances cause our worlds to move closer, so that they touch, we find ourselves at First Contact.
It feels alien, foreboding, … exciting? Scary… And, in this unpredictable terrain, a spectrum of possible outcomes.
Different interests and different tastes, born out of different environments, yet the same locality.
A paradox to exploit; so little in common, but to find that which is in common is like mining for precious gems.
“So tell me about yourself…”
There is always something to find, if you know where to look.
I am the official ambassador of my world and its constitution: To seek out new life forms… To boldly go where I have not gone before.
Reading the cues …instruments finely tuned to gauge responses to probing…
”That’s an interesting way of seeing things… What led you to that point of view?”
Establishing a positive mutual communication is the conquest.
One small step for me, one giant leap for my kind.
© Danny Baxter, 2022, Xian Force Productions
You can hear great new ideas, creative work and writing tips on Write On! Audio. Find us on all major podcast platforms, including Apple and Google Podcasts and Spotify. Type Pen to Print into your browser and look for our logo or find us on Anchor FM.
If you or someone you know has been affected by issues covered in our pages, please see the relevant link below for information, advice and support:
We are all at different stages in our work, our creative lives, our stories – but how does your writing look from the moment you get the idea to the finished product you submit (to Monday Moments or any of our Write On! pages)?