Monday 26 April 2021

Hurdles VII - A Personal Insight into Writing by Don Levers


    What hampers me from writing?

    In my case, I believe two things fall into this category.

    Number one is life. Sometimes it just gets in the way. 

    Most of us think that things were so simple when we were younger. There is a feeling that life progresses at a snail’s pace. We couldn’t wait for our next birthday to get a little older so we could do the things older kids were doing. Summer vacation from school took an entire year to arrive. In high school, we had time to play sports or be a part of an organization like scouts or cadets. We had time to take part in the high school plays. In those days, as the lead in several high school drama productions, I had the time to memorize an entire three-act play. Not just my own lines, but I could memorize the whole play, including all the stage directions. The simple reason for this is that I had time. There were no burdens of having a job or the obligations that come with raising and providing for your own family. 

    My sojourn into writing began with writing and directing several award-winning skits in the 1980s. I always had what many would consider an overactive imagination. This is apparently controlled by the right side of the brain. The problem is I am also overly analytical, which is considered to be a left-brain function. In fact, a good friend and mentor of mine I used to build furniture with went so far as to call me anal. The thing is, he said it with affection, not malice. The furniture we created together were works of art and but precise in their measurements. 

    After publishing my children’s book about Ogopogo, life got in the way. This was the main reason it took me thirty years from when I began writing Loot for the Taking until self-publishing it in 2017. When I finally had the opportunity to start writing, the second item that hampered my writing, the world phenomenon known as (The Internet) began interfering with my writing. This new tool meant I started researching everything I wrote about. For Loot for the Taking, I researched many things. How much did a kilo of cocaine cost? What was the price of an ounce of gold in 1987? What was that ounce worth as I completed the book in 2017? I spent hours researching inflation and the rise in the stock market for those same periods. I spent hours on google maps following a course from the Vancouver airport to the Vancouver General Hospital. I wanted anyone who lived in Vancouver to know the route was accurate.   

    I am currently working on several projects. Terminal Justice is a tale of revenge. For this project, I have interviewed Police Forensic teams and accident, reconstruction experts. I have also spoken with ex-military snipers. These technical experts have helped ensure my book is not what Hollywood has us believing is possible. Google satellite and street maps have once again played a role in finding locations I have used.

    The research I have done on my other projects pales compared to what I have been doing since beginning my non-fiction book, Our Fathers’ Footsteps. It is an anthology of four men who landed on the Normandy’s Beaches on D-Day in June of 1944. The men’s stories and the facts of that historical time have taken hundreds of hours to accumulate. Each hour spent on research may be lucky to produce a single sentence, or if I’m incredibly fortunate, I may get an entire paragraph. Our Fathers’ Footsteps also includes over 80 historical pictures that are woven into the story. I have spent countless hours getting the correct picture for a specific paragraph or situation. 

    Since this was my first attempt at writing non-fiction, I made numerous mistakes from the get-go. I did a poor job of recording the sources I used throughout the book. This resulted in too many hours to mention retracing my steps to cite my sources correctly. 

    Life getting in the way has created consistent roadblocks for me over the years. However, researching the facts for either fiction or non-fiction has proven to be my greatest challenge and biggest reward. This is accentuated to a great extent when I find myself heading down a rabbit hole on the internet. When typing a question into a search engine, you are instantly inundated with hundreds if not thousands of possible solutions to your search. Sifting through these potential revelations to a single question can take hours. If none of the initial responses gives you the answer you are looking for, reword your question. I found many of the results from the second query are the same as the original request. 

    All the time and hard work can be rewarded by a few words of praise when the work is completed. The other thing is, you might just learn something new while doing the research.

    Case in point of the rewards came from two sources as I complete Our Fathers’ Footsteps. 

    “I have just finished the first reading Our Fathers’ Footsteps. As I was involved in many of the circumstances described, I kept wishing it would go on and on. You wrote it almost as if you were there.” Jim Parks (Surviving veteran, The Royal Winnipeg Rifles) 

    “Thanks for the opportunity to see an advanced copy of your new book. I have had the opportunity to read the first 100 pages of Our Fathers’ Footsteps.  Let me start off with a ‘big salute and congratulations on a job well done.  Your research and focus on detail are not only educational but quite captivating for any reader.  The picture inserts are extremely effective and provide that degree of authenticity that really brings the story to life.” Brad Talbot (Retired teacher with Masters in Education)  

    So while life and research can get in the way of writing, each is an integral part of the writing process. 

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