Well, let me tell you.
What are two years out of your life worth?
It’s about the amount of time to write a Master’s Thesis—to complete the course work and write a 120 page thesis based on original climate research using instruments set out in seven different habitats along the San Joaquin River. Three of the seven sites on or near the river are pictured below. Let’s call them representatives of my outdoor office (as compared to my cute office now, pictured above.) Pretty rugged work back then. Every week I collected the hygrothermographs from the hygrometers for all seven weather stations. Lots of driving. Lots of hiking.
A small task, it turns out, compared to writing one little romantic mystery novel!
I thought working with three thesis advisers, two always correcting what one had just made me change, and each with his own ideas about my research goals and conclusions, was difficult. It was totally nerve-wracking seeing them around the conference table for our weekly progress meetings, watching those skeptical looks that implied they thought it questionable whether I was going to collate all two years of data, analyze it and then write up the conclusions by end of term. How was I going to present the results at my Thesis Defense? It was original research that garnered new data acquired by scientific methods. All defendable.
It was a grueling task.
It was confidence-shaking.
After collecting all the data I did hours of work on the literature search for comparable studies. I studied statistics and radiant energy models so I could explain the climatic differences between the sites. I got lost in the stacks at the library.
Okay, the library stacks depicted here were only in my over-worked, angst-ridden mind – an image of heaven awaiting me when finally I got out of the hell of writing that blankety-blank thesis!
The library was much more like the pictures below. Think of this as my inside graduate office.
Ugh! Card catalogs and rows of journals.
Hours and hours in the library - researching. All that time getting my field data collected. I thought I was free of data collecting and following rabbit holes through piles of books, journals and professional papers when I decided to "be a writer." Free to sit in front of my cute desk in my cute office and just type a cute romance.
But…you know what? It was a lot harder being cute than being scholarly. Far harder writing a novel—from pure imagination--let me tell you!
Talk about original data!
Okay, let's talk about the "data" one must collect to write a fantasy fiction. Original data for this endeavor is acquired with no method other than what happens between your brain and your fingertips on a keyboard, or hand to pen and paper.
There is no "idea-meter" to capture stories. No scientific construct or instrumentation, just lots of words formed from brainwaves of immeasurable frequency that snap and flare, throwing story lines and character arcs, dialog and plot twists around in your mind before they elude capture and exit into the atmosphere.
Forget that you’re in the shower or waiting in line at the DMV, where, for some reason the rotund, serious-looking young man behind the counter with the T-shirt bearing the words “I am Grut” over a picture of baby Grut dancing in his planter, makes you think of the cutest dialog ever between two of your favorite characters. By the time you're back in the car, however, you can't remember what you were thinking. (Of course, you must take into account the mind-numbing experience of the DMV. It should be against the law to drive for an hour after that ordeal! So this might not be the best example.)
Anyway, there is only one method to capture fiction There is only one recording device—your hand. Write or type it down! In your journal, on your laptop, on your tablet, on your Comcast bill, on your speeding ticket. All of these, of course, when you can't find a napkin. Your ideas are only safe when written down--on something.
And let's not go there about all the research. These days Google has been genetically modified like a futuristic soldier capable of taking down a whole city--or a whole day of your time when you, for example, "go in to find out when the first post office was established in Rock Springs, Arizona" and end up reading about Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans. Clearly this is a brain hostage situation and the negotiator is in on the take-over. Oh, now that sounds like a good story idea. Where is my notebook? There must be a napkin somewhere...
Now, getting and holding on to a great story idea is crazy, though potentially quite edifying, yes? Learning HOW to write your brain child down (we writers call this "craft") is torturous.
Classes, seminars, meetings, critique groups, online tutorials from famous writing teachers, all take up your life, fog up your brain. But you trudge forward until your writing gets tighter, deeper, more compelling. You may not know when this happens. You may not believe it when it happens. Confidence comes slowly to some of us.
So very good. Now, you have the idea, you captured it on paper or on your laptop or maybe the cloud. You wrote it down. You made a story with beginning, middle and end. Yay!!
Now you have to promote it. No yay...:-( This is awful. (Some people say they love promotion, but they are usually sociopaths. Why else would they say such a thing about something so twisted and maniacal other than to torture you because you're so bad at it?)
To wrap this up...
I have to say that anyone who writes a first novel deserves a degree. I don't know what kind of a degree. Maybe a Masters of the Imagination. Yeah, I like that. So, I'm going to give myself this degree. Because the hell of writing a Master's thesis has nothing on the two years I spent in Hades writing Blood Stones: The Haunting of Sunset Canyon. Yes, I lived in that canyon for a long time. I'm still there. You can tell by the way my CUTE little desk can look--or looks most of the time. Research shit, a failed attempt at story-boarding, way too much sugar and Kleenex for crying (well, mostly for all the animal videos on Facebook--yeah, Facebook. Another level of evil. The true enemy of writers.)
And, there were times even my Kachina Muse hated my guts!
But, I got done. I actually wrote that book and published it and then 3 more. I am happy - and maybe three inches bigger in my butt. See. I deserve a degree for it all!