Part 1 — Things I’ve learned about writing

Sorry if it seems that I dropped off the face of the earth.  Just the usual writer stuff — a book launch, immediately followed by a book deadline, on the heels of a book revision.  Okay, I’m back now.  Over the next five Mondays, I’m going to revisit a series of posts I did quite a while ago on “Five Things I’ve Learned About Writing.” They were true back in 2007 when I wrote them, and they’re just as true now.

I thought I’d start with what every writer has to wrestle with — taking a book one sentence, one scene, one chapter at a time. Some people are intimidated away from writing a book because they think we authors have the whole book in our heads when we start. Heck, most of us don’t have the whole book in our heads when we finish. They think that it’s all there, we write it down and we’re done. Don’t I wish.

Some of us (like myself) prefer to work with an outline. I’ve discovered that I like to work with a VERY detailed outline. Of course, I can change it (and I always do), but I know it’s there like a security blanket. Other brave souls come up with an idea and just strike out on their own, no outline, no nothing — they feel that to write anything down would sully the creative process. Most authors are somewhere in between. But all of us have one thing in common: we all have to write our books one sentence, one scene, one chapter at a time.

I absolutely MUST work this way. While of course I have my outline, when I’m actually doing the writing I have to force myself not to think much beyond the one moment in that scene that I’m writing. When the sheer enormity of what I have to accomplish pushes its way into my thoughts, my poor little brain just shortcircuits — actually it panics. How am I going to get from here to there? Oh crap, I forgot to include that character. Do I really need that character? Should I save him and his subplot for the next book? How is that subplot ever going to fit in? In short, I try to do what I don’t think any author can do — have the entire thing in your head at one time. It’s kinda like looking at deep space pictures from the Hubble telescope. Your jaw drops open at just how vast the universe is. The same is true (on a much smaller scale) of your books’ universe. It’s just too big to comprehend all at once.

And when you do that, you lose the immediacy of the sentences you’re writing, the intimacy between the characters in that scene. You lose that emotional human (or elf or goblin) touch. The realness of two people who care about each other, or hate each other, or one is about to betray the other — their intimacy/connection/animosity is lost unless you immerse yourself in their moment, get into their minds, and understand what they’re feeling. Only then can you accurately convey your characters’ emotions and make the words come to life on the page — one sentence, one scene, one chapter at a time.

2 Responses to “Part 1 — Things I’ve learned about writing”

  1. July 13, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Boy did you hit the nail on the head. Sometimes I don’t write at all just thinking about the enormmity of the task of writing a book. It’s like you procrastinate because you’re completely terrified that A) You won’t finish or B) It will suck when you do. It’s like sabotaging your own chances for success. I’m approaching my new project differently. I work on one scene at a time. I figure looking at one scene at a time shouldn’t seem so overwhelming.

  2. July 14, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    I’m guilty of the same thing myself, Melissa. I’ll procrastinate writing a difficult chapter or section because I’ve talked myself into thinking that it’ll be hard to write, or that I won’t be able to make it good enough.


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

%d bloggers like this: