Writers bear a wonderful burden. They’re the only ones that can put the exact story they’ve imagined into words so that others can experience it too. Even the most horrible procrastinator that gets no further than an outline, or concept, or title… they experience a piece of creativity that few others will ever see.
We start out as our own diehard fans, the way a backyard band gathers groupies that swear that one day a record executive is going to be driving past in a convertible and miraculously hear that sound that defines Crunchy Jester, Apple Bandana, or The Earharts (get it, cause they’re like loving for your ears – musician logic) – whatever the band is called. I have ideas with their own clever names that will instantly transport me to the world of a story. I didn’t even have to finish writing anymore than the first chapter for one of the stories I started at age 17 to have its own in-jokes, to the point that my brother knows what I’m referring to if I mention Dudley Moore’s Evil Ravioli.
We’re damned lucky.
Sure, we also have the burden part. We don’t just have the unyielding need to write those stories that continuously roll around our brains, but we have the responsibility as well. It’s up to us to jot it down, and then to make sure that the words match the vision that bewitched us. I’m never quite sure if I have the right words in the right spots, and often the best I can do is ask myself if I feel a line belongs. Thinking intently about it becomes thinking way too much about it, turning easy prose into overwrought bullshit. What’s worse, is the more I think about it, the more I become convinced that my painfully orchestrated sentences are better than the words that previously flowed so evenly.
I wish I could say I was past that stage, but I know I’m not. My first strike into a scene always seems closer to what it should be than any fiddling gets me, and I’ve found that the best type of rewrite for my own methods, are to strike anew. The opening of a scene might feel like it needs a gaze at the clouds, but it’s an absent daydream that’s called for. My first draft might be that gaze, or the clouds, and I might stew over the way to describe them, or if the character should be leaning up against a lamp-post, or sitting, or any other number of details that would help in conveying that Stanley watching the rolling whites above. That investment in the one set-up does often mean I show it in a way that feels stale, even if a few words throughout might feel right. Attacking it differently, a small tangent about that ship moored in the harbour could lead to a mention of the clouds if it felt natural, or bypass it completely.
It’s all about what feels right at the time, and as time goes on, I find myself drawn more to strange notions of instinct when it comes to writing.
I know it’s not just spooky intuition. It’s not as if an occult hand just brought the words to me to transcribe, though it often feels like it. It’s something born from years of reading and writing, where I now know what feels right to me. It’s a little like cooking. For years, I’d throw things together randomly. I mean, really randomly. It had mixed results. Sometimes, I’d create a meal that would be delicious, and other times, I’d console myself with at least I’m not hungry and nothing else. Nowadays, I can taste a dish that’s familiar to me, and feel like it’s missing something, or needs something. Better yet, I can usually say what it needs. That’s where I’m at with writing. My tastes are more developed than they used to be, but sometimes it’s not clear as to what needs to be fixed.
I used to be an extreme planner. I’ve mentioned it before, but I have a 12K word document that’s sort of an embellished plan. I admit that it’s so frightfully overplanned, that the task of writing out the novel of it is actually daunting. I’m terribly daunted by it. There were a few times where I’d plan some things, but because I was quite rigid, a lot of the plot-holes became gaps in the plan because I wasn’t sure how to get around them.
As I’ve also mentioned before, NaNoWriMo turned me more toward the pantsing approach. Not dakking, but writing without a plan (or writing by the seat of your pants). I made it up as I went along. Right, I had a vague plan, but it was closer to just knowing the sort of thing I wanted to happen (and treating all of those potential happenings as optional).
A funny thing happened to me on the way to my novel.
Some of the ideas I was coming up with slotted perfectly into the gaps of my seemingly unrelated stories. It wasn’t just the red herrings that were becoming potential pathways for the story, but an antagonist from one worked as the source of antagonist in another, which slotted in as the mysterious unknown enemy for yet another. The setting of another story worked as the basis for the land of another. Ideas about sanity earlier became an important plot-point later. Little bits and pieces in one story became pertinent either later on in the same, or in a completely different one. I’m sure that if the details were different, the same thing would have happened in a different way.
The details vary, but there’s synergy at play.
It’s why Elements Method works for me. It’s why I’ll start writing sometimes without really knowing where it’s going (only where I want it to), and trust that it’ll get there. I’m sure that it’s something that has come with time, due to thinking about stories so frequently (even if they don’t get written as often as they should be), but it’s hard to feel like it’s thanks to me that these things happen. It doesn’t feel like an innate skill – it just happens. I guess thinking doesn’t feel like a skill either -it also just happens.