MONDAY MUSINGS: Building castles in the clouds….
“There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.”
~~ Gilbert K. Chesterton ~~
I love this quote. It’s made me think about how I find balance between structure and creativity.
I’m one of those right brain/left brain people who can run an accounting office and write an emotional novel. Not at the same time, of course. It can also be difficult to turn one off and get the other one moving. But, I digress. Suffice it to say, after reading this quote the first time, the practical side of me wanted to argue out loud that there are always rules and structure in everything I do, while the creative side of my brain gently blew raspberries in my ear and taunted me into playing hide-n-seek in the castle gardens.
As writers, we spend a great deal of time and effort working to design the architecture of our novels, the doors we walk our characters through or the windows we throw them from (hmm, haven’t done that in any of my suspense novels yet 🙂 ), even the strange worlds we set our buildings upon. Although it’s necessary for us to frame this architecture, we can’t forget that we are building castles in the clouds.
Those of us who’ve been doing this awhile have heard it all. Use multiple POV. Don’t head-hop. You should plot. You should let your muse flow. Don’t do it that way. Do it this way. You write too much sex. Not enough. You should use these words. Avoid the LY and ING words. Keep your synopses down to three pages. Five. Seven. Outlining. Storyboarding. Collages. Brainstorming. The list goes on and on if you’ve pursued your craft as long as, well, me. I’ve even added to the mélange with my own plotting classes.
Then there’s the ever-changing reader market. Readers can’t get enough vampires this year. Oops! They’re into werewolves now. They hate sports heroes. Love them. Humor is picking up. No, the tortured hero is all the rage….
It’s great to have all of this guidance when we’re trying to build stories someone actually wants to buy. In today’s competitive book industry, it’s necessary to learn everything we can from the industry professionals and from our readers. There’s a lot of useful information out there simply waiting for us to pick up and incorporate into our writing. But all the techniques and guidance in the world won’t do us much good if we bury the story of our hearts in a viscous bog.
It’s all too easy to get sucked down into the mechanics of writing so that we forget the joy of creation. Or we kill the beauty of what we’ve created because we’ve honed our story to death in some misguided attempt to jam our castle between a brownstone and a 60-unit apartment complex. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been guilty of both of these extremes at one point or another in my career. Now that I’m aware of those mistakes, I’ll be able to avoid them in future. Maybe.
I believe the trick to building castles in the clouds today as a writer is to always keep in mind the architecture is the underpinning, not the mantle. All of my training and workshops and techniques are designed to give me a “loose” container so I have just enough structure to capture the magic I want to share with my readers. After all, that’s what my readers are searching for…the magic.
Have I found my balance between structure and creativity? Yes. No. Maybe. I certainly found the magic when my debut contemporary romance, Satin Pleasures, released on Valentine’s Day…a magical day for romance. I also know there’s still a lot for me to learn about building castles in the clouds so if you’ll excuse me, my muse just called, “Ollie, Ollie, oxen, free!”
I wonder what we’ll play next?
Oh, no! Was that my serial killer dashing into the rose garden? I’d better go see what that man is doing!