Writing Your First Novel? Follow Scott’s unique process in Chiang Mai, Thailand

How Did You Start in Chiang Mai?

My sister and I were born here in Chiang Mai at Ram hospital.  I grew up starting in a hill tribe village; I learned Karen, which is one of the hill tribe languages before I even learned English.  We were there in the hill tribe village for my first 4-5 years.  We then moved to a small city in Thailand called Nassau. I moved back to Chiang Mai when I was 7.

A new school opened in Chiang Mai, called Grace International School and my parents sent my sister and me for the very first year the school opened.  We followed that through until be both graduated from high school. 

I went back to the States for college and I started working at the University that I graduated from doing computer systems for them.  Then my best friend Patrick from high school, who was still living here in Chiang Mai, convinced me to come over and help him with some projects.  We were working for a few months trying come up with small business ideas but at that point it gets more difficult to stay.  You either have to be on an education visa or do trips out of the country every 4 weeks and that can get really annoying.  I decided we need to do something else and at that time an international school was opening up.  They didn’t have someone in the computer systems position.  I came on board and helped set up their system.

Making the Jump to Become a Full Time Writer

This is the stage in my life that made the most sense (August 2019).  I got some *financial assistance, that’s what pushed me into thinking I could really do this.  Because up to that point I was always thinking of it as a hobby, something that I enjoy doing, I would like to finish a novel someday.  I just put it off because I’m at the stage in my life where I need to focus on my career, trying to build up my skill set.  In my mind it became clear, if I am going to ever do this, this is the time to do it, otherwise its going to be one of those some day, maybe hopefully kind of things.  Once I had that realization, I had to sit down and actually do the math, looking at my finances and figure out if its possible. That made the difference, now that I am actually looking at this – I can totally do it!

I am currently just a so so writer, its probably going to be a number of years before I produce anything that will actually have a financial return. To get to that level of skill it will take several years of investment. This is an opportunity to experiment, can I do this, do I have enough self-discipline to sit down and write a full novel.

I have only just started the writing process; this is the end of week 2. There was a lot of planning that went into it before hand. Its started back in 2016, I was writing on and off.  I never made a lot of progress because stuff happens in your life.  (Life) gets in the way and you can’t stick with the story.  You forget some of the important details and you have to flip back through your notes trying figure out the last names of these characters. I wasn’t making a lot of progress so I decided to put (the writing) aside for a time and focus on trying to read a lot more books.  I am trying for 104 books per year and so far I’ve actually gotten close to that mark.  With that said they are not all technical books, it’s about 50/50 between skill/self development books and pure entertainment books.  That’s really a necessary balance because you can get too bogged down in the business stuff.

By the time I was actually thinking about doing this, dedicating my time/energy to writing a novel, I had at least 2 years of text from me writing down ideas. It’s a resource; if you ever get stuck you can go back and start mining it for ideas. You can stick it into your story or at the very least get your mind going on a new tangent.  Because what usually happens is you are writing along and you get stuck on a certain idea or you get to a certain point in your story and just don’t know where to go from here; where is this story trying to take me?  You need something to get that process going again.  I had a lot of the groundwork set up already, which I didn’t realize until I started seriously considering writing a novel.

*Grant – How did you get the money? Honestly, just a Google search.  There are quite a few (grants) if you submit some material, you have an opportunity.  This particular one, I don’t think I could replicate it.  If you are religious type of person, it’s a sign type of thing.  If you have some material you are really proud of, people can find success by submitting it to places.

Environment

I am trying to write fantasy, most of it is in my head.  In that sense the environment isn’t as critical for me as for some people.  It’s an imagination piece and being able to put yourself in a position that makes the writing come alive. It’s not as critical that I am in some specific situation like the other writers, its more an issue of cost.

Being here in Chiang Mai is by far the most cost effective option I found.  I get to be in incredibly beautiful condo with a giant swimming pool, a gym on site and I don’t have to worry about food because everything is pre cooked. I am in walking distance of the mall so if I start getting too stir crazy, I can get out and walk around.  It’s pretty much the ideal situation.  The other thing I realized for me is that I am very easily distracted by other temptations, which is actually a downside to being here in Chiang Mai. There are a lot of cheap fun entertainment type things that can distract you, so I have be a lot more disciplined to get the work done.

A lot of good ideas come to me when I am walking around. I have been waking up early in the morning and going on a walk around the inner courtyard at the condo where I am staying. It has a pool in the middle and they have these beautiful trees that are flowering all the time.  I go early in the morning, there is nobody else out there, and it’s just quiet.  I use this time to listen to audio books as well; it’s a good time feed my brain.  I found some good ideas come to me at that time.  I quickly pull out my phone, type notes.  Walking around in a beautiful place is especially the best.  That’s the most enjoyable part of the process.

Early Inspiration

Before I could even write I used to tell stories to my mom and she wrote a couple down that I told her.  She sent them off to someone that was a writer and they sent a message back saying given his age this is really encouraging.  Of course I was told about this growing up but you always wonder how much of this stuff has been conditioned by your parents.  Having positive feedback at various points in your life, kind of pushes you down a certain path.  For me this is one of those things, since I was little, my (parents) were like you have a creative sense and maybe you can do something with that someday.

I won a penmanship award for writing cursive when I was in third grade, which doesn’t seem like it would be strictly related.  I really enjoyed the feeling of the words flowing out.  When I started writing more for fun, I was writing in cursive. That pushed me down that path a little bit.

Through middle and high school I won a few awards for pieces that I submitted to my English and creative writing classes. I had a quite a few teachers tell me they really enjoyed it.  It was that and teaching, people kept telling me that I would make a really great teacher.  Those were the two main things I heard growing up, that were in the back of my mind.  There is a lot of outside forces pushing me in that direction.   

I’ve had a very active imagination since I was quite young and I think that is a huge asset for writing, especially if you are writing fiction.  That encourages me and I think that I have at least some sort of a chance of succeeding with this.  There is always a luck component, in addition to any sort of skill that you have.  I know for a fact that given how many books I have read that are basically unknowns, which are quite fantastic.  Wow these are really good and only 500 people have read it.

Challenges

I am a super pragmatist and it was hard for me to make this jump over into something not making money for a period of time.  There has been quite a bit of anxiety that I’ve noticed in myself.  I’m really anxious about not having money flowing in. I’ve been working since I graduated high school, straight on thru without a break (until now).

There is also a sense of security at this stage in my life, where I can never see myself in a situation where I would not be able to find a job.  If things went badly, I could go flip burgers at McDonalds, work the cashier register at KFC. When you have that kind of security in your mind, it gives you a better position; I can definitely do this for a while.

I’ve had some struggles with insomnia and various sleeps issues as well. What will happen is that I will have nights where I only get 3-4 hours a night of sleep and I feel great.  And then other times I’ll sleep for 8-9 hours and just feel lethargic the whole day. I’ve been trying to figure out if there is a dietary component but I haven’t been able to pin it down, yet.  One of the nice things about the writing life as a whole is that it has a very flexible time schedule. I don’t have a strict schedule when I do things.  If I’m having a bout of insomnia and I am going to be awake for the next 2 hours, I can sit down and do some writing. Which is nice break from the normal 9-5 thing. 

When I talk to people about my stories, very quickly the story evolves in a different direction than I expected and it tends to get stuck.  Its a hard thing because I can’t talk to people about what I’m writing, I keep it all in my head.  John Grisham bounces ideas off his wife and if she doesn’t love it, it’s not worth the bother. That’s his filtering process.  That does not work for me, at this stage in my writing.  This can all evolve over time; maybe in the future I will have ideas more concrete in my mind where they are not so easily influenced by other people. For me right now, I realize it’s a significant problem, it’s a real hurdle.  I wont tell you how many family members keep trying to finagle at least a few ideas out of me.  My answer to people; I have 12 different ideas and I am trying to pick between 12. Which is true.

Once you get a rough draft, then you can show it to people.  At that point enough of its solidified, where you are ready for more input from the outside. The rough draft is pretty painful and I am starting to hit the beginnings of that right now and oh my, this is going to be tough.

Closing Advice

A writer is someone who writes everyday, if you aren’t doing that you are only an inspiring writer.

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