In February I went to a launch party for J. Scott Savage’s book Air Keep, the third in his Farworld series. The Provo Library put it on, and it was a great event (think: face painting, sugar cookies, cardboard cutouts). But before all the festivities took place, J. Scott Savage took a few minutes to talk about writing the Farworld series.
He started off by telling us that he’d had the idea for a long time. It was an idea that wouldn’t let him go, though he knew it would be different than anything he’d written before. Savage considered himself a writer of adult books, and this new idea was about a boy in a wheelchair. It was also about magic—one of Savage’s favorite genres to read, but not one he’d ever tried to write.
He put it out of his head and went on with his other work, but the idea kept popping up again and again.
Finally, he’d had enough. He decided to prove to himself that he couldn’t write a YA Fantasy.
He was traveling for work, staying in a hotel room, and thinking about Farworld again. And even though he wasn’t convinced it was something he could pull off, he pulled out his laptop, opened a blank document, and began to type.
He wrote for an hour at first, then two, then three. Then, in what seemed like a second, he sat back and saw the first bits of daylight peeking through the windows. He’d not only written into the night, he’d written through it.
Taking Savage’s story to heart, this week I wanted to prove something to myself: I’m not a picture book writer. Over the years I’ve had lots of ideas for picture books. Some of them good, some of them embarrassing and awful. And, like Savage, I never gave myself permission to take any of these ideas seriously. I write novels, not picture books.
But this week I sat down with my idea and an empty notebook. I had kids dumping legos all over each other and pulling fur off the cat, but amid the chaos I set my pen down and wrote through what was rattling around in my head. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and I poured out three bowls of applesauce (and wiped applesauce off the floor and the couch and the wall, why was it on the wall?), and then I wrote some more.
And after an hour I’d filled up five pages, front and back, of notes and prose. It wasn’t Where the Wild Things Are, but it was something. Some of it was even funny. I revised and re-arranged and tossed some pages and wrote new ones. As I did, I thought about other ideas that, with my permission, I’ll also write down. I didn’t fail as miserably as I thought I would, and though the manuscript is far from perfect, I’m surprised with how the wiggly idea grew into a real story.
Perhaps you’re like me, telling yourself that you can’t write picture books or novels or The Great American Dystopian Romance (is that a thing?). Maybe you have an idea wiggling in your head, an idea that’s been dancing like mad around in your brain for ages. Or maybe your idea is more of a wall-flower: quiet, doing a half-shimmy in the corner. Either way, it won’t stop wiggling until you give yourself permission to write it down.
If you’re interested in more stories from published authors, check out our morning workshops. J. Scott Savage is teaching our middle grade class this year, and promises to bring his best, wiggliest ideas with him. Earlybird registration ends in three days (gasp!) so hurry on over and sign up.
Also, don’t forget to check out our Spread the Word Contest, going on right now at the blog. Click here for details.