Everyone has an odyssey of sorts. If you are still in your 20’s, your odyssey is still in the beginning stages. If your are older, say in your 50’s, your odyssey is still in progress, but you have quite a life journey up to that point even more so.
We all have experiences that lead us somewhere. Maybe yours led you exactly to the point at which you wanted to be, even though how you got there wasn’t the road you wanted to take. Or, maybe it was. If you’re a writer, your odyssey is chucked full of material from which you can choose to include in your story. This goes along with a post I did earlier that talked about writing what you know. Today I want to touch on the variety of events in one’s journey/odyssey. I’ll use my own as an example.
My odyssey is in 2 parts. The first part started out in the beautiful state of Michigan, which is where I’m from. There isn’t a lack of places to camp and swim because of the huge coastline due to the lakes we have access to year round. As a result, my family camped quite a bit. The explorations, hiking, bike riding, fishing, and swimming added to the adventures. One summer at the age of 16 was the last camping trip me and my family went on together. An incident happened involving me. A moment of tragedy can happen in an instant but last a lifetime. This began the beginning of my second odyssey. From this point forward there was much I had to overcome, and it wasn’t easy. I, like many human beings, made right decisions and wrong decisions. These decisions helped me to learn and grow from. They gave me something to reflect on and use in order to mature and end up at a place in my life that leaves me saying to myself, “I made it. The journey was rough, but I made it.”
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t still decisions and mistakes to be made, but at least now I have some concrete lessons to base my decision making process on. I’m more informed. Even more, I have something I can reflect on by using these experiences in my books, which is what I did in my novel The Triunix of Time. The book isn’t about my life, but some truths lay within it. In your stories, you will embed your own truths, as many writers do. What I found by doing this is that these bits of truth enrich the story itself because you are leaving your mark. Your feelings regarding them come through to the reader by way of your story characters, your descriptions, and the like.
Don’t use all of your odyssey in one story/book (unless you’re writing an autobiography). Use them as they apply to the story you’re writing. This way, in future books/stories you will have more to use.
Writing a novel is an exciting adventure because what you create lies within you. You are the master of your story, you can visit your story anytime you want, and you can mold it to your liking. That having been said, it is a learning experience. I spent 20 years writing my first novel. In that 20 years not only did I write my book, but I learned how to do it and all while experiencing set backs. Now, some of you reading this might be thinking, “Wow, 20 years”, or “Why so long”.
I took my time with it, and I took time off at various points in time. At one time I scrapped it all together because I had written a large chunk only for it to get deleted somehow. I vowed never to go back to it. A friend of mine begged to differ with me on that and told me I would finish it one day. “Ha,” I said. “Not likely.” Well, I was wrong. I did go back to it but only after learning more about story structure. If you take a peek at the Books page on this blog you will see a link to a book that helped me tremendously. I highly recommend it. Once I read this book my novel crept its way back into my brain and kept poking me. My characters stood there with their hands on their hips giving me a look of impatience. They had a story they were dying to be a part of. Soon the ideas began to flow again. Visuals played out in my head and before long it was anything goes.
Then I stopped again and took time off from it but not permanently this time. The story still sat in my mind. It was part of my everyday life in that I would take issues, scenery, pictures, situations (good or bad) snippets of dialogue I over heard and other aspects of real life and used it for ideas. I created a binder and a journal with sections in each and wrote all of my ideas down. Yes, there is a mountain of information in them I didn’t use, but I still have those ideas, and I am able to use them in future books.
Along the way though, life kicks in sometimes and throws mud at you, so you have to take time off. However, it’s how you work with these situations that makes all the difference. The important thing is to learn from them. USE them if you can because you never know how they can help. I think the death of a loved one is one of the biggest moments in life that causes us to take pause. Maybe it’s not necessarily someone in your own family; it could also be the death of a member of a friend’s family. Here again, write, and write some more. Your emotions regarding these situations can enrich your written words in so many ways.
Does every novel you write have to take as long as 20 years to finish? Absolutely not, because once you get your ‘rhythm’, you get in that groove, but you have to write everyday, or you run the risk of losing your readership. Above all else, have fun with it and stay close to those who encourage you. The journey is exhilarating.