How

I was at a social event the other night. I encountered some casual friends. They knew I wrote fiction and asked questions. 

Now, I’d vowed not to talk about writing, particularly my writing, because once that faucet is opened, it seems to break, and nobody can turn it off. I’d planned succinct, polite answers for the questions that are usually asked.

But these folks persisted in inviting torture. One answer led to another question and requests for expansion and clarification. 

Basically, they first asked, “How do you start?”

I understand that question. I get it often. I know that people read a book and think, this was written from beginning to end. That’s what I thought when I first began writing. 

That works for some writers, but not for me. I explained to the others, I just begin writing. I see a scene, I hear a voice, I met a character, and I begin. I usually have little idea about what’s going to happen or who the characters are. I’m learning this, along with the story. I’m usually beginning in the middle, or toward the end. It’s only after I learn the characters and situation more that I start to see how the novel starts, because then, when I see what happens, I ask, “Why do that happen?” Questions like that take me backwards, toward the beginning.

They also wanted to know if I outline.

Generally, I don’t. I’m an organic writing. But sometimes, a scene all comes in at once, or scenes and the story becomes complicated, requiring some process of clarification. I’ll sometimes outline that aspect, just to help me handle the information, find gaps, and fix them. I also use snapshots to do thinking outside of the novel’s context. These are documents that aren’t included in the novel, but help me grasp what’s going on. That helps me make sense of what I’m trying to convey, but it also helps me track information that I don’t share with the reader, usually because I don’t want it revealed too soon.

Generally, I don’t. I’m an organic writing. But sometimes, a scene all comes in at once, or scenes and the story becomes complicated, requiring some process of clarification. I’ll sometimes outline that aspect, just to help me handle the information, find gaps, and fix them. I also use snapshots to do thinking outside of the novel’s context. These are documents that aren’t included in the novel, but help me grasp what’s going on. That helps me make sense of what I’m trying to convey, but it also helps me track information that I don’t share with the reader, usually because I don’t want it revealed too soon.

“Do you ever get writer’s block?”

Yes, and no. I don’t embrace the expression. It’s too glib and provides a false impression about my process.

I sometimes struggle with a scene or direction and don’t know how to take it. I’ve learned that I can overthink things, so I tell myself, don’t overthink it. I’ve learned to trust my subconscious mind and instincts, and that I just need to get out of my own way. I’ve learned that I don’t need to write everything in sequence, so write something else and come back to the problem later. I’ve learned to take a walk or read a book or do something to let my mental resources work without my attention. 

“How do you know when it’s done?”

When I, as a reader, think that I, as a writer, have explored and answered the questions and problems put up throughout the novel, within the context of what I set out to do, then I think it’s done. That’s part one. Part two, I write for myself, and my pleasure. If I take pleasure from what I’ve written, including the ending, I’m satisfied that it’s done. 

I admit, sometimes the ending that comes surprises me. “Is that it? Really?” Upon further review, sometimes it isn’t, but sometimes it is. It’s a process.

I also give the finished manuscript to people I trust to tell me their thoughts about the novel, including the ending, and there are editors. Novel writing is generally an individual endeavor, but finishing a novel often requires several minds, especially if you’re driven to get it right.

Scheduled events then began, saving them from more explanations. 

I took a break from my editing to write and post this. The process actually went, I’ve been editing and writing for hours. My butt’s asleep and my neck is stiff. I need to stretch and take a walk. While taking that break and walking, I remembered and thought about this conversation and decided to create this post.

Time to get back to it.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: