Tuesday 2 August 2011

Perils and joys of being a writer by Philippa Ballantine

Perils and joys of being a writer - Philippa Ballantine

I’ve always wanted to be a writer—well as soon as I realized I had read all the books in my father’s science fiction shelf.

I started when I was a teenager. I immediately fell in love with the creativity and freedom of tackling a blank page and filling it with characters and worlds. I’d never been able to draw to save myself, my knitting was terrifying, and I got ejected from the school choir. So it was quite lucky that I got some creative writing talents to make up for that.

I write speculative fiction (fantasy and science fiction) because it was what I read as a kid, and the shear scope of what you can do with it is unmatched in any other genre. You can go anywhere in the universe or anywhere in time.

Speculative fiction is particularly good for me since I love building worlds. There is something liberating about thinking about all aspects of life on a planet. In the world of Geist I had to consider what the effects of having the supernatural present in your everyday world would be. How would the citizens of Arkaym cope? How would it mould the Empire and the world in general? And that was when I came up with the Order of the Eye and the Fist. When you have a force as powerful as the supernatural geists, you need something else to balance it out.

I like to think of world building as a puzzle. It occupies my mind during the day, gives me something to chew on while doing housework, and when I go to sleep at night, it’s the last thing I think about. Sounds like I am obsessed doesn’t it?

Characters are how your reader will experience the world you have built. They cannot be perfect, but they must have personalities that make the reader want to spend time with them. Sorcha is abrasive and arrogant at the beginning of Geist, but she is also loyal to her friends, and brave in the face of terrible danger. They must also be altered by the events of that happen in the book—at least to continue to be interesting. Sorcha learns in Spectyr to rely on her friends, and that isn’t a scary thing.

Another joy however, is reaching the end. The sweet joy of finishing a book can barely compared. You’ve sweated hours of your time away to reach it. It’s like the marathon of creative writing—but without anyone there to cheer when you pass the finish line.

However before you get too comfortable, there is editing. I cried the very first time I got my professional edits done, but since then I have learned to appreciate that too. It’s exciting to see a rough draft of a book be polished into something cohesive where everything fits. Having fresh eyes on it makes all the difference.

After that comes the really, really fun stuff. Seeing the cover art for the first time, getting your author copies in the mail, and then seeing your book in stores.

However I wouldn’t be totally honest…there are some rough places in being a writer. The one most people know about is the dreaded writer’s block. This is exactly how it sounds, painful. It feels kinda like you have something stuck in your tooth, and you just don’t know how to get it out. Luckily there are some techniques to get around the block. Doing something else, going back a couple of scenes and writing a different direction, or giving the problem writing to someone else and getting suggestions.

But once you get around it, it is a giddy joy. Writing is full of bumps and joys, but I find it totally worth it. The cherry on the top is when you meet someone who has read your book and enjoyed what you did. Then it is impossible to keep the smile of your face. It makes it all worthwhile!


  1. Great post :D
    I do love writing, but for some reason reading has taken its place. It used to be 50-50


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