Wednesday, December 16, 2009

One of those writerly, process-type posts

I feel like maybe I've read somewhere or been told that, as a writer, you're never really learning how to write a book, you're only learning how to write that book. (Yes, I asked the internet, in the hopes of being able to properly attribute what I think is a quotation, but the internet only wanted me to sign up for courses that would teach me how to write publishable fiction, and to write said fiction very quickly. I already took one of those.)

Anyway. My point is, I've spent most of my recent writing time on one novel (working title, That Sleep of Death) and the writing of it has been completely different from how I usually work. No, I still don't have an outline or anything more than the most general sort of plot (I know the Scary Danger and What Happens Next, but that's it). It's more that, when I wrote Linger, I'd work pretty steadily, painting in broad strokes in the opening draft, and then filling in the details later. I'd have a pretty general idea of who the people were, and what was going on, and again, later drafts would add more specific and recognizable detail. I could float from scene to scene, and except for one or two "ah-ha" moments, the best way to describe my progress was measured.

This time, I'm writing in chunks. My brain will stir it's way through the next thing that happens, and then an enormous flood of words flows out onto the page. And I can't write my way through a scene: I need to know what's going on, who the people are, what the things are called, why everything is important, first. Naming things has been hugely important for this project - I've been using this regularly. I'm extremely aware of the detail-level of what I'm writing, and I've got a list of notes already of things that need to be made more important at the beginning in order to set up what's happening now. I can feel the emotional through lines.

It's amazing, and kind of terrifying. Instead of following the story, I feel like I'm being pulled along after it. I mentioned the other day that I felt like I was writing without a net. My friend Steffi said that maybe the story was the net, and the more I think about it, the more I think she's right. And I'm trying to trust that it will catch me.


  1. I believe the quote is Gene Wolfe, by way of Neil (on the blog, somewhere circa the release of American Gods.) It's definitely Neil quoting someone else, but he tends to reuse quotes and paraphrase them slightly differently each time, so I can't track it down more precisely than that.

  2. Ah. That would explain why I kept having the urge to look in my Clarion notes to see who said it. Thanks.