I have been working solidly on a story over the holidays. Every morning, when the children head to the beach with their Dad, I prop myself up on the bed and type for at least a couple of hours. The story is something that I've been toying with for a while now. It's a sci-fi piece, set in a post-apocalyptic future. Not my normal style, but I'm following advice given in a uni lecture, by a very successful author. She suggested trying to get outside your comfort groove, as a way of challenging your writing brain.
One of the tasks that I completely underestimated in sci-fi is the complexity of world building. Instead of being able to reference everyday events and objects, you have to create from scratch. How do these characters get food? Where do they sleep? What's the vegetation like? What are their clothes like - do they even wear clothes? It is haunting me.
My family is perplexed when I suddenly say "that's it" in the middle of a meal. They are unaware that the way someone has lifted food to their mouth with their fingers has been the exact vision for my sci-fi world. They shake heads at each other, as I rush off to record the thought. I am lucky to be blessed with an loving, if uncomprehending husband, and my children follow his lead.
This morning, I was jotting down details of a vegetable garden, trying to remember my own efforts, as well as googling plant names and methods that I had no idea about. It occurred to me that an equivalent activity to world-building is colouring -in.
You start with a blank page, and are slightly overwhelmed by the amount of empty white space. You are anxious to have the page rainbow-hued and beautiful, but you know that if you race, the effect will be patchy and unbelievable. So you take your time, adding daily to the picture to ensure that each part is gently, subtly, complete.
It takes ages, but you want the result to be a living, technicolor vision. A few squiggles, for effect, would never be the same.
So, each morning I pick up and colour a little more world. My story may not even use some of the details I'm recording, much as each pencil stroke of blended cerulean or violet is not seen on a colouring page.
I guess the main thing to remember is to be careful not to rush - make sure the detail is good.
And most importantly, keep colouring.
Image credit http://teachingconcepts.com/products/colouring-pencils-classmaster/colouring-pencils-3/