What it Means to be a Writer – Part 1

February 07, 2011 By: Christopher D. Eldridge Category: Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint, Plot & Stucture

People always ask me, “Why haven’t you finished your story yet? What’s taking you so long?”

For those of you who’ve never tried to write a novel before, let me educate you. To most, writing a novel seems a simple enough venture. But then try writing one. Then try getting it published.

Have you ever heard the statement, “You can spend a lifetime with someone and still never truly know them?” Well, this is at the heart of what it means to be a writer.

If it’s difficult to understand your parents, your children, your spouse, imagine how much infinitely harder it is to actually create these individuals, with all their intricacies, imperfections, hopes and dreams, regrets, secrets and more.

A writer must create individuals who exist in three dimensions, people who you could actually know. Otherwise, you can’t come to love or hate them. You can’t root for them, nor laugh at them or with them, and above all, you can’t come to know or understand them. It is no simple matter to dream up dozens of characters and make them all interact in interesting and believable ways, so that you, the reader, will care.

These characters must also exist in a tangible world. In a place that comes to live not just on the page, but in your mind and in your heart. Furthermore, these characters must get pulled along in a story that is fresh and exciting. Just look at the definition of “novel.” Novel is something new, and a great book is a work of art which fits that definition. If that weren’t enough, the story that makes up a novel may involve dozens of interweaving plot lines, all that the writer must juggle without dropping a single ball.

Now it is often said we writers are a peculiar lot. Many of us are shy and introverted, others strangely outspoken. We may come off as weird or kooky, or even anti-social. Some of this is likely due to the many hours we spend alone, or the great amounts of time we spend in introspection, or that we’re just better at expressing ourselves in words on a page. But we spend our lifetimes trying to understand people. We must, if we wish to create them and share them with you. In a way, we are closet psychologists, secret shrinks and sociologists. Many of us are historians, our heads filled with cultures and civilizations long passed.

You see, writing a novel is a creation of great difficulty. It often takes thousands of hours or more, years, even decades to create. I’ve spent more than a decade working on my own novels, and despite working a full-time job, I often spend more time writing than working. And I’m doing it for free. There is no guarantee, after all, that a writer will ever become an author. You might ask why? Why do I do it? I could answer simply by saying it’s a passion. But that is only a sliver of the truth. Perhaps it’s madness. In reality, it’s the closest thing I can get to creation. Sure there’s having children, but that’s something entirely different.

It is simply my opinion, but I feel there is no greater creative art than that of writing a novel. Though many people often help shape it, in the end it is the work of a single individual. A single person creating worlds, filling it with their dreams, bringing people to life, and then sharing it with all those who will listen. This is why I write.

Though all of us writers create individuals, and the backgrounds where their stories take place, we fantasy authors, those who belong to what is known as speculative fiction, create entire worlds, even our own universes. Stay tuned for part two, where I discuss what it means and what it takes to write fantasy.

16 Comments to “What it Means to be a Writer – Part 1”

  1. Ed Hickok says:

    Nice words. True.

  2. Chris Devlin says:

    Go novelists! We rule.
    Heartfelt article, dude. Cheers.

  3. Michelle White says:

    It’s nice to belong to a group of fellow writers that shares and understands your passion.

    • Christopher D. Eldridge says:

      Thanks guys. It’s great to be part of a group that shares my passion. Joining RMFW was one of the best decisions I’ve made, as is being a part of Writers on the Brink.

  4. Michelle Hoff says:


    Great post, heartfelt and true. Your novel is one that is truly amazing. I am still blown away by the level of work that you’ve put into it. Hope your thousands of hours of hard work pay off in a big way!

    • Christopher D. Eldridge says:

      Thanks Michelle. You’ve been a great help so far in helping me to improve my manuscript. It wouldn’t be where it is today without all your hard work.

  5. kevin wolf says:

    well said- Does part two run tomorrow?

  6. Rebecca Kagan says:

    Wonderful article Chris. Our fantasy worlds have to be so real that our readers want to live in them, to be the hero or heroine. And creating that sometimes takes years.

  7. Daven Anderson says:

    Your post is as well-conceived and well-crafted as your stories.
    You have posted an elegant and most relevant summation of what drives us all to create our work.

    The reason why your particular craft takes so long is because the fantasy genre is writing of the highest order. The “pure fantasy” worlds are the most difficult to craft and “connect” to the reader’s own real-world experiences.

    Heck, even J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding world (a VERY well-defined fantasy world) is interwoven (and integral) with the real “Muggle” world of the United Kingdom (particularly London).

    Let me take this opportunity to salute the few proud souls such as Chris Eldridge who write in the pure fantasy genre. The rest of us are in awe of your impeccable craftsmanship and unparalleled skills of creation! >;^)

    That felt good. Now I can get back to writing about my “realistic” Vampires driving on real Colorado roads in real cars…

    • Christopher D. Eldridge says:

      Wow! What a terribly flattering response. I feel privileged to be able to share my world with all of you. I’m truly at a loss for words. What more can I say other than thank you?

  8. Laura Chick says:

    Thank you for sharing. Yes, it takes thousands of hours of writing to make a book. I love writers. I love words. And I love the people who are devoted to their writing, pouring their heart and soul into words. Writers make the world a better place! Chris, thank you for your dedication to writing. There is no time limit on your dream, your finished product is your baby, and you set the delivery date! Never give up, you are brilliant, and someday, the whole world will get to read your books! Have fun, and thank you for sharing on this blog. I look forward to being one of your number one fans! Your website is amazing, a reflection of your genius. God bless you my handsome loved one!

  9. Mindy McIntyre says:

    So true, Chris! Your attention to detail really comes through in your characters, and in the fantasy world in which they reside. I, also, stand in awe at your devotion to your craft.

    My favorite authors, Janet Evanovich, Robert Parker, Harlan Coben (and many, many more), pull me back into their worlds, time and time again, because their characters are not only believable, I’d swear they were real people. I look forward to revisiting them with each new story that hits the store shelves. They’re like long, lost friends or family members who are back in your life, touching base, letting you know what’s new in their lives. And you’re right–the more 3-dimensional and the more real they seem, the more I feel like I’m going to miss them when the story is over.

  10. Laura Chick says:

    This idea of creating a map to better show your world is just so brilliant, so unique. Why have I never heard of this idea before?
    I love it! A map is just such a great way to help the reader get a better grip on your amazing fantasy world. And it encourages all of us to think about creating a map for our own stories, our own books! The idea of a map would work for both fiction and non-fiction if you really think about it! And I love that you gave us a “sample” of your maps, where we get to see the evolution of your artist talents! I hope you frame those original-maps in your home, they will be worth millions someday when your book and movie deal come out!!! HA! That little map from 9th grade is just ADOREABLE, and shows the beginning stages of your brilliance.
    Thanks for the map concept in creative writing. I think I will start working on my own map right now!!!! Keep up the great work!

  11. Aloha Chris,
    Yes being a writer is a creative process. I might add that whether you are a novelist, script writer or song writer it’s a life’s work for many of us. I consciously started working on the film, ‘Dreadlock Rock : the Story of Reggae Music’, seven years ago but it really began on my first trip to Jamaica in 1977. Or was it when we formed the REBEL ROCKERS, Southern California’s first reggae rock band, in 1975?
    We soak up experiences that shape us and later surface in our writing. We write to connect with humanity because that’s our method of communication. So let the words and ideas flow.
    I’m very proud of your fine work. Uncle Jack

    • It’s no wonder I have a desire to create, with such a creative genius as my uncle. “Dreadlock Rock” is truly one of the greatest reggae albums, at least in my humble opinion, and it is certainly one of my favorites. Every song is great. My father and I were just talking about it a few weeks ago (when Mandie and I were in Portland) while listening to some Bob Marley, and he was saying how he needed to get a copy of “Dreadlock Rock.”

      I know what it’s like to have a project brewing and growing in your head for many years, though I haven’t been able to finish mine and share it with the world. I suppose I’m still learning how to properly communicate with words that will leave a lasting impression. When words are written in concrete, you must be certain they say exactly what you want them to. I hope that time is soon, so I can share it with all those I have come to know and love.


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