By James Wadman
My first novel, Diamondis, began from the seed idea of describing something beautiful and evolved into a story about death, neuroscience, and love. It was my first book and my first experience with the full writing process of a novel. In light of such an important milestone, I thought I would share the story of how Diamondis came to be.
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Diamondis began with no real goal in mind, except that I was fascinated with the idea that I could preserve an entire life with words. I have written about the seed ideas for the story before, but I will say here that dreams played a very important role in my early inspiration for the novel. I knew that I wanted to describe what happened when a person dies and how understanding that process can help a person cope with death.
My working title in the beginning was “Old Man Story,” and the main character was once a teacher or a carpenter, at any age from sixteen to eight-seven. But what I did that I think was so important was, instead of looking at the clouds to try to find the better starting point, I tried out each character description and watched the story evolve.
My early writing style was one that followed a sort of biological method (lagging strand DNA replication, to be exact). Basically, the idea here is that I would power through the get the template idea down, then I would retrace my steps and fill in anything that I missed. When I had a great idea for dialogue or a description or a plot turn, I wanted to reach that part of a chapter with confidence and in a flow state. Therefore, I skipped over any small descriptions leading up to that big idea and returned later, once the high of writing something I was proud of dissipated.
In a way, I credit the flow and structure of Diamondis to this early writing style. The story definitely has a “get to the point” flow to it, where the reader is taken more to highlights with extensive details being left open-ended, than the reader is being told every tiny detail of every insignificant moment. This resonates with some people and, understandably, angers a few. But in my mind, Diamondis was actually designed to be read quickly and the descriptions are meant to be more cinematic than literary.
When I say that Diamondis took me five years to write, I do not intend to make it seem that I spent 1,825 days writing to less than 40,000 words. The making of Diamondis required writing “Old Man Story,” “Story of Death,” “A Dream of Death’s Affection,” and all the many other variations of the story that led to the final product. Not to mention, as the story evolved, I did, too. In those five years, I did plenty of research to make sure that my story fit into science as best as possible, I got my degree (everyone should get their STEM field degree!!!), I took breaks away from writing to get a clear picture of where the novel was headed, and so on. This was my first novel, and I wanted it to be perfect to my vision of what it could be.
When real-life obstacles stand in your way, there are a few words of advice I can give. Just because you can’t sit down at a computer and type for hours on end, doesn’t mean you can’t be progressing with your story. I would go several weeks without opening up my novel build document, but the notes on my phone would grow and grow. To be honest, this is when my best writing took place. I wasn’t trying to force anything. I was just taking note of ideas whenever the real world inspired me in some way. Then, when time permitted, I would sit down at a coffee shop with either a laptop or a journal and let loose all these ideas.
However, there is one requirement for this strategy: you must make time to read! In fact, I think it is always important to read whenever you are writing. It doesn’t even have to be a good book, because when you read, you are surrounding yourself with the language of different voices, and for me, I can get supremely bored when reading late at night, so my mind wanders off and I get quality thinking time for my own story. What’s the message here: any writer must be willing to read. Lots.
If a part of your story doesn’t thrill you, don’t try to force-fix it. Let it be for a little while, maybe meditate on it while you are not looking right at the pages. In the end, you will find the fix in the world around you, not in the pixels of a computer screen. Better yet, you might realize that you were having a bad day and it wasn’t such a mediocre passage to begin with.
No one ever said it was easy, so be patient when the ideas aren’t flowing. Again, and I can’t emphasize this enough, the ideas for your novel come from experience in the world. Forcing ideas never works.
Do I look for an agent? Should I self-publish? How many people are going to buy my book? Is it really done? It is fair to say that reaching the end of your novel comes with far more questions than you might expect. Take a big sigh of relief when you finish, trust me. You don’t want to jump right into the next stage of promotion and publishing without it.
In the end, I decided to self-publish Diamondis to maintain creative control of my story, to learn about the publishing/ promotion process, and to make sure that all my ideas for multi-media integration and collaboration could be fulfilled. Did I make the correct decision? Only time will tell, but for now (1 week after online publication), I am very pleased with my decision and the feedback so far.
I want to conclude this post with some final advice to anyone out there who might be trying to get started or make it through an important threshold in their voyage. Be genuine. The world needs more people who are not afraid to stay true to their own voice, their own story, and the pursuit of sharing their own experiences. I can’t promise that this advice will guide you toward fame or fortune, but it will guide you closer perhaps to a meaningful existence.