I’m not quite sure whether this post is for you or for me, so let’s just say both. 🙂
I wanted to talk about my process for writing in this post because I feel like I go about it a little differently than many writers do. Or maybe not. We’ll see.
I use my intuition a lot when I write instead of outlines, plans and notes. I really like to start fresh when I start out with not much more than an idea or a particular scene in mind. And in fact, it is often an image that I start with.
A setting with some characters and some idea of the interaction taking place between those characters will pop into my mind. And it really does seem to pop out of nowhere. I think sometimes something going on around me inspires the pop but it happens so fast I’m not always aware of the connection.
With my novel, North, I had this image of a young woman riding in a convertible up a long highway. And it was very clear to me that she was running from something even though she also had a sense of freedom and adventure. That’s what started the story for me, that one image. Granted, North kind of percolated with me for a while. So I would get other scenes in my mind from time to time or I might think about a particular character and see how they fleshed out. But it was all mental. I had no notes of any kind when I started writing that story.
And that brings me to another point. I generally write about 500 – 1000 words in a sitting, and during any particular writing session, I’m only focused on those particular words. That little section of the story. Whatever wants to come out of me at that time is what goes onto the screen. I may get little ideas about what comes after or what I think would be really cool to add into the story, but if it doesn’t flow out of me when I’m writing, it doesn’t go into the story.
I’ve had times before when I’m trying to work in an idea to a story that just won’t seem to go in nicely. No matter how hard I try to add in this element that I thought would be really cool, the flow gets broken and the story stops working, and I get stuck. I’ve learned to never try to force an element into a story. No matter how good of an idea I thought it was, it just won’t feel right in the story. Not to me and not to readers either, I suspect.
So when I’m writing it’s just me and those thousand words and that’s all I need to know of the story for today. The next piece will come to me tomorrow.
There’s also an element of “danger” when I write this way. Not knowing how this all works out before hand, I feel like I could get lost at any moment and ruin the whole story. But I think that’s where the spark comes from. That spark of life that makes a story engaging. Just like in real life I don’t exactly know where I’m going. I know where I’m going today (for the most part) but that’s it. It’s when you piece together many days in a row that you get somewhere, but on day 1 you can’t see day 50 (of course on day 50 you can see day 1 and piece together where you’ve been). I like that I don’t know where I’m going. I think that gives the story life.
And when I’m done, I’m done. I do like to circle back through the story and read it as a whole, especially as I’ve been putting it together in pieces but I’m not usually making major changes to the story unless they are necessary for clarity and understanding. The story won’t be perfect. They never are. But readers are forgiving of little inconsistencies here or there, a plot hole or two or maybe even something that’s just a little too outrageous, even for fiction. If they’re enjoying the ride, they don’t mind a bump now and then.
At the end of all this, I hope that I’ve told a story in the way that only I could tell it. Even if that scares me a bit, because I know that both my strengths and my flaws will be in it. And I hope that I’ve enjoyed myself, because, well, that’s a big part of why I do this. 🙂
And then it’s on to the next one…
How does this compare to your own writing process? Are you like me? Completely different? Feel free to leave your answer in the comments. I’m always very curious to hear how other writers do things.