Saturday, 19 January 2013

Details are Important in Books, Love and Life

Writing a novel requires you to have two very distinct abilities. You have to be able to see the big picture, as you imagine your story from start to finish. It’s like a giant arch, with the story starting off on one end, stretching to the heavens and then curving down towards the other end.

The second skill that you need is to be able to see the details in each scene… the paving stones of the giant arch, if you will.

I remember when I started writing my first novel, I was in such a hurry to get to the end of the story. I felt a sense of urgency as I pictured the whole book in my mind, and I wanted to get it all down on paper as quickly as possible.

I learned, however, as the actual process of writing slowed me down, that you can’t hurry writing a book. You can certainly write a story in a short amount of time, if you’re a fast writer, but there’s no way you can write a book overnight. It’s imperative to allow yourself time to write each chapter and to focus on the details of constructing it while enjoying the entire process.

Certainly having the desire (and the drive) to finish a book in a reasonable amount of time is important, otherwise you could end up with a pile of half-written manuscripts at the back of a drawer; but hurrying the process of writing while thinking only about your end goal doesn’t work when you’re constructing a piece of literature.

The same lesson applies to life, I believe. It’s good to have an overriding idea of the kind of life you want to lead over the next fifty years, but if you don’t live in the moment and find joy in details, your life will have a harried, unfulfilled aspect to it.

If you think of life only as a series of goal posts (or future chapters) you miss out on all the fun involved in zigzagging in a certain direction, and going off on totally unexpected tangents.

Sometimes when I’m writing a book and my story goes off in an unexpected direction, instead of reining it back in and sticking to the rigid outline of my synopsis, I follow that tangent, even though I have no idea where it’s going.

In relationships, people can be in a hurry to reach a predetermined goal post, where they’re more interested in the outcome of a relationship than anything else. But if you’re in too much of a hurry to get to the HEA (Happily Ever After) of your love story, you miss out on all the fun of progressing through the different stages of a relationship… the scary, yet exciting beginnings which lead into the more settled getting-to-know-you stages, and then the full-grown love that matures only over time as you grow to actually love someone as opposed to just feeling in love.

Learning patience in writing – and life and love – isn’t easy, but as you slow down and savour each detail, you could end up with a masterpiece on your hands.


  1. Great advice! And something I needed to hear today. I've been rushing in editing my book because I just want to "get it out." But pausing and taking a breather, like to enjoy a nice hike or dinner with my husband always gives me a new perspective.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Angela. I have to remind myself quite frequently that Romance wasn't built in a day :-)

  3. Wonderful piece, Alissa! You're so right that patience is a virtue in so many facets of life. XOXO