“Write what you know” messed me up as a writer for a long time but not anymore. I was conflicted because I thought Mark Twain’s adage meant I could only write with authenticity about experiences culled from my own life. But this morning, as I contemplated the third draft of my YA fantasy novel, I had an epiphany. My protagonist — a feisty, daredevil fifteen-year-old girl living in a magical, alternate world — might be very different from me, but she is exploring the great theme of my own life: Who am I? Why am I the way I am? Where do my people come from?
I am writing what I know.
Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Salman Rushdie said, “Books choose their authors.” This concept of a complete work of art waiting in the ethos to be carefully released by the artist, helps me. I find it reassuring to think of my novel not as an evolving thing but as something which exists and is merely waiting to be discovered. With each editing and writing session, I chisel away at the marble to expose the True Work within.
As I move well into the first revision of my YA fantasy novel, do I see the True Work revealing itself? Yes, the characters, the magic, the plot twists, the history, they’re all very exciting to discover. But the thing I can’t seem to reveal — the thing that is kicking my excavating arse, quite frankly — is the most important element of all: what the main character truly, truly wants. She wants a lot of things. She wants to buck convention; she is very curious and wants to know where the massive structures on her otherwise bucolic world come from, who built them, what their purpose is or was. She questions the True Mission of her people and wants to turn against it. I’m having a hard time solidifying that into EXACTLY what she wants. I get this feeling that the answer is right in front of me but I’m not seeing it.
Admittedly not the prettiest word, ‘logophile’ conjures an image (at least in my brain) of a crocodile, on a log, (ph)iling his claws. But seriously, how much can a person love her thesaurus? All 978 book-bound pages of it.
The mysterious-stranger mentor just said a really cool thing to my heroine. Fist pump.