Here it comes, are you sitting down? Big confession #1:
I don’t write every day. (Gasp!) Well, not fiction anyway.
Contrary to the schedule most writers maintain, I don’t work on my WIP or mss every day. I do not get up an hour early to scribble dialogue or burn the midnight oil to crank out a hundred lines of narrative before dropping off to sleep. The truth is, the dozens of emails I craft daily on behalf of my full-time employer make me cringe at the idea of (regularly) cracking open the laptop for personal projects. So I take breaks – sometimes weeks – between intense bouts of work on my novels. Yes, my progress is slow. Yes, it’s frustrating. But I keep plugging away, and my goals remain the same. Some of you will just get there before I do. Please send postcards.
Confession #2: I revise as I go along. I don’t write the entire book, then go back to the beginning to re-write what doesn’t work. I edit the previous pages until I’m happy with the way the words flow before I add more. Then, once I’ve written “the end,” I start all over again. Back to Chapter One, cut, cut, cut, red pencil, better word, better word.
Confession #3: I don’t create an outline of the story before I begin. Aside from my first (really bad) novel, which was a whiny, cathartic, thinly-veiled version of my own life (and I knew how that was gonna end), I don’t know what’s going to happen (for the most part)when I launch myself into the tale. I submit to my characters, who show me the way, tell me who they are, provide advice about their lives, the skeletons in their closet, the elephants in the room, and gossip about their friends, mistakes, successes and exes.
The reason I’m snitching on myself here is to make a point: Writing is a commitment, but it’s different for everyone. Our schedules, our pre-writing rituals, our methods, our processes: All our own. This is what makes us both unique and at the same time, a cadre of creators. We think, we observe, we feel, then we write it down. And our mutual hope is that what we record will be compelling enough to move our readers to think, observe, and feel. That’s our goal as a community of writers.
So even when I’m not moving a project forward, I observe what’s going on around me, everyday. I’m scribbling conversations I overhear, expletives, complaints, jokes, witticisms. How I feel, how people operate, interactions between and among others. My own reactions to circumstances, how quickly things change, and what I’ll miss most when it is (inevitably) gone, or evolves into something even better.
Then, when the mood is right and I have a block of quality time, I write it all down.
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Image by Thomas Hawk