The hardest part about writing is…
The never-ending frustration that there’s never enough time to write.
There, I’ve said it. Now I’ll have to let you know what I mean.
For me, writing is an interesting process of constant detailed struggle in amongst enormous fun-filled worlds. I start with a scene, and then identify the theme I’m expressing. I can’t do anything without having fun, and the grittiness of life sends me packing, so my stories are all YA science fiction and fantasy—this allows exploration of themes in a world where excitement and action abound and my hero doesn’t get beaten down by the sameness of existence. I’m also interested in unusual heroes, and few of my characters meet the common mould.
I never created stories as a kid. I spent the majority of time struggling to understand other people. Years later, I remain confused, but I have many more explanations for other people’s behaviour. My first short story explained how road-rage is actually caused by an alien invasion. I made this startling conclusion after musing why a person would attempt to demolish the self-serve check-out at the local supermarket. He, who shall not be named, suffered from a distinct lack of patience.
The 12 Nights of Jeremy Sunson, described as chock-full of fun where the end of the world meets Groundhog Day, began life from momentary lapses in memory—as in ‘did I really do that?’ In Jeremy’s specific case, his confusion when game-hunters from the future blow up his apartment—and the evidence disappears the next day. To me, Jeremy’s struggle to save the world, and avoid the assassins who crave Armageddon, represents the unlikely hero in all of us. Jeremy’s an accountant on stress-leave who always thought he lacked in life: if he can make a stand, we all can!
The Cycle of Harm, reported as epic fantasy meets the Truman Show, started as a single scene about Harm. That legendary warrior performs amazing deeds, but can never remember those exploits—nor hope to repeat them when he can remember. His friend Montague, the magician-trickster survives by his wits. And he uses his wit. Constantly. Harm’s story is about heroism and truth. Okay: theme tick.
From there, I built more scenes, developed the characters, and set out the whole structure before writing the events in detail. Phew! Does that sound like a lot a lot of work to you?
And here’s my catch—due to my secret-identity, the main time I have to write is when I commute (at least when the world is normal). Thank God for smart phones! For years, I’ve been writing stories on the train, one paragraph at a time. I tried writing at night, but that just left me spinning and sent my well-being down the toilet. Weekends, you say? I’ll get to that.
After weeks (or even months) of train-rides, I will have finally written each scene, and the story as a whole appears before my eyes. A few weeks later the scenes even hang together and the what of the story is ready. But a what does not a story make. Eh?
You see, unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Writing coherent words is hard work. Writing words that flow and zing is even harder. Welcome to the how of editing! Good bye weekends.
But it still takes time: the how can take almost as long as writing the story in the first place. Good thing it’s so worthwhile.
So that’s me. Melindra Hattfield Snowy, part-time writer and full-time dreamer, who of course prefers to be known as MH. You can find me at www.MHSnowy.com, on Goodreads, and you can follow @MHSnowy_Dreamer on Twitter.
When not writing or occupied with my dual-identity, I take long walk through the mountains with my partner or attempt to unravel the secrets of my great-grandmother, an adventuress who disembarked from the French steamer Laos in 1931 seeking to uncover rumours of Mayan temples deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle, and disappeared, never to be heard of again.
Light from the world outside fought to enter through the tiny, barred window, but failed. When the sun rose, Montague would discover what covered the cell’s floor. The prospect didn’t fill him with joy. Huddled in the corner, knees drawn to his chest for warmth, he tried not to move, because every time he did a waft of—”No,” he muttered. “I don’t even want to think about what that smells like.”His stomach rumbled, an unpleasant reminder he had yet to eat. He’d taken impromptu and involuntary holidays in such places before. The caretakers fed the inmates once a day if at all. How long had he been here? If he stayed too long his captors would grow tired of extracting his secrets. Then the troublemaker—and if Montague was anything, he was that—would be silenced, permanently, and no doubt painfully.Unless a disease took him first, such as an infection caught from the unsanitary floor. “There’s a cheerful thought.” Without other distractions, and having become used to the cries from other cells, he dwelt onwhat had happened to Harm. “Alas, poor Jeffery. I knew him well.”
Montague sighed. The events of the last week must have worn him down. Separated from him for more than half a day, the gaoler’s had doubtless questioned poor, simple Jeffery Harm using the back of their hands, but Harm wasn’t dead yet.Harm didn’t have the secrets the gaolers wanted, because Montague hadn’t told him. The legendary warrior anything but simple, Harm would understand the guards interrogated him because they weren’t sure they could prise the answers from Montague. After all, he was a Magician.Excerpt 2The sharp sounds of boots on the stone floor outside interrupted his lament. Two guards dragged something heavy; Harm had returned, and he couldn’t walk.The corner in which Montague crouched lay opposite the door: a standard thick, heavy, wooden affair bolted from the outside which opened inwards. He stood so the guards would spot him when they opened the peep-hole, a politeness appropriate to receive visitors, though they wouldn’t open the door until he did. But upon standing, he felt diminished anew without his cloak, not as impressive, no different from any other person in a no-longer white shirt and brown pants belted to keep from falling. The peep-hole banged open and the guard’s eye scowled through the opening, a satisfied grunt indicated everything was to the gaoler’s satisfaction. “Ready to tell us what we want to know, little man?” Montague winced inside as the gaoler’s bad breath stuck at him like a knife. He drew himself up to his full height and thrust an imposing finger at the guard. “Fool!” He kept
his tone low and ominous. “Fool! I know such truths to make you gibber in the corner as the fear drove you mad. No one must know the truths I do.”The guard quailed, before remembering on which side of the door he stood. “Er, is that a ‘no’?””Yes!”The guard’s confused expression didn’t clear. “Do you mean ‘yes’ as in yes, or ‘yes’ it’s a no?””Inept moron!” Montague raged, his patience never the strong suit. “Yes, it’s a no!”Excerpt 3The eye withdrew, and the guards held a whispered conversation. “He called me an in-thingy. What’s that mean? Well, yes he also called me a moron, so I guess it doesn’t matter, but should I be offended? I mean, he is a Magician. Yes, I know the boss said magic can’t pass this door, but it wouldn’t be the first time the boss forgot to tell us something. You can talk—you won’t be the one turned into a toad if this door doesn’t work.”The whisper ended with a growl and the eye reappeared. “Right. This door is magic-proof, so save your breath and don’t bother making me into anything unsavoury. And I’m not offended that you called me a whatever-it-was. You said ‘no’. Boss said you’d say that and to give you an encouragement to change your mind. So here it is!” The bolts withdrew with a shriek and the two overweight guardsthrew Harm through the doorway. Montague rushed forward before Harm hit the floor, but found again that
a five-foot-nothing Magician cannot lend much physical aid to a three-hundred-pound Legend. The gaolers didn’t laugh as Harm collapsed on top of the Montague and drove him to his knees. They were too busy dragging the door closed, thrusting home the bolt, and pulling the key from the lock. Then the guards yelled in malicious glee, extra loud for his benefit.Montague kept his silence until the laughter faded in the distance. “You’re a tad heavy, old friend. Any chance of some help?”As though awaiting the question, life returned to the massive limbs.