Sunday, August 26, 2012

Some days it’s not about how many words you write but about what you figure out about a character or a story. You have some new twist to the story that comes out of what you’ve been writing or you discover an aspect of your character you hadn’t seen before, something that seems to open up other possibilities. This is a good day.

I think writers sometimes get too caught up in word count. I don’t ever count the words. I do write every morning at roughly the same time. I try to write for a few hours but some days that’s not possible. Other days, especially in the summer when I’m off from teaching, I may write for more than a few hours. That daily habit has been really important to me. It keeps me involved in the story and it keeps the story moving forward. Some days I write crap and some days I write very little and some days it goes so well it’s hard to stop. But I’m there ever day regardless of how it goes.  That’s what works for me.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

E.M. Forester School of Writing

I'm of the E.M. Forester, "How can I know what I mean until I see what I say?" school of writing.  Sometimes it sucks but I can’t write any other way. One discovery leads to another discovery leads to another and I have to trust that these will lead me, eventually, to a story. Of course, I’m thinking about structure as I do it. I’m thinking about characters desires and I’m thinking about how all the various elements fit together, but I’m always trying to be open to any and every possibility that comes into my mind. Especially when I’m writing a first draft.
I’m discovering my story. I get immense satisfaction from this struggle to discover my story.
And this is why I find outlining and, particularly outlining that involves formulas ( a lot of these out there) for writing ineffectual.  They do work for some writers. There is no one way to write, of course. But for me when I try to fit my writing into some preconceived structure, I limit it. I force my story and my imagination to conform to a certain path and this limits the possibilities of my story. I diminish my story.
I need to think it all out on paper.  Discover the story and the characters as I go and allow that first draft to wander aimlessly in places. This means a lot of wrong turns and a lot—a lot—of rewriting.  I look at my first drafts with suspicion and embarrassment, but that is my process and the more I revise the closer I get to the real story I’m trying to tell.  I need that embarrassing first draft to get to my story.
It’s messy. I abandon manuscripts after thirty or forty pages sometimes because I can see that my story doesn’t have the spark that draws new discoveries. But once I get going, once I make discoveries that lead to other discoveries, the errors, the wrong turns, the wanderings, eventually reveal my story to me.