When you first start writing, you want to be big, impressive and complex, using your pen to create the sensation of soaring like an eagle over mountains and fields. Or at least I did. The epic fantasy genre is fabled for elaborate landscapes and I wanted to create a UNIVERSE, not a short story. But once I started writing more, I became fascinated by smaller things (like the fact that soaring like an eagle over mountains requires some pretty warm clothing). No point drawing maps of the universe when I knew nothing about where my protagonist lives in them.
The more I’ve read, the more I’m convinced that BIG writing without attention to the details will fail. I’ve been captivated by Patrick Rothfuss’ description of silence in the prologue of The Name of the Wind and laughed at Pratchett’s clever riff on the colour black in the first paragraph of The Colour of Magic. It’s these tiny little things that make up a good book. Descriptions, characters, plots don’t have to be as BIG as you can make them. They can have tiny little elements that are knitted together.
Have a think. What little things have you thought of that you know you’ll use one day in your writing (or any other pursuit)? You don’t need to tell anyone. Just think about it and lock it away for future use. You never know when they’ll be needed. Personally, I love a good analogy. It can be strange, obscure, and oddly appropriate (like much of Pratchett or Adam’s work). Some of the ones I hope to someday find a place for in a worthwhile phrasing include…
‘… like that feeling you get when you put a clean pair of socks on in the morning.’
‘… like the first drop of rain, right after you realise you’ve left your umbrella at home.’
‘… like leaf cutter ants, who’ve just found a new tree.’
They sound terrible now but one day, they might just fit. Who knows? As a writer grows, so does their writing. You don’t need to struggle to be big and impressive when you first start out. A lot of excellent, little writing can build a far greater story than a clumsily woven epic of enormous proportions.
So, go put on a fresh pair of socks and go build something. It might take a while and be full of tiny, annoying details, but one day, you may just end up having something BIG.