Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.

- Graycie Harmon

Monday, November 8, 2010

Musing About Writing

Apologies for the late post, again. It's Monday and the computer has been off for two days. That means that the first day it is turned on, it processes at speeds that would embarrass a snail. Thus the late post. I think I'm going to stop apologising every Monday and just issue a blanket apology that covers every Monday ever in the future of Mondays... and also every Tuesday that follows a long weekend.

Thus, I apologise for the late post on every Monday here on out, and every Tuesday following a long weekend. The computer is being, well, the computer. It's time we all made peace with it.

Now, onto the subject of today's post - musing about writing.

Certain friends of mine throw their hands up in the air at my writing process. To be fair, if I had been formally trained as they had, I might get a bit annoyed as well. Actually, I probably wouldn't. I'd be interested in the different process, but reserve judgement. Let's face it. There's not one correct way to draw, or paint, or sculpt. Why would there be to write? I digress.

I've explained the process before, but in case you did not read that post, I'll cover it again.

I plan virtually nothing. The main character/protagonist jumps into my mind almost fully formed, along with a scene or two about what it is they are up to. The next thing that comes into my head is the ending of the story.

It's as if a ghost appeared before me and said, 'I am [insert name]. This is how I died/won/lost/insert other appropriate ending. Now let me tell you about how this came to be.'

That's all I have before I start writing. The character, a couple of scenes, and the ending. I write one of the scenes, and the entire story flows through until it ends. That means when I begin any one story, I have no idea how long it's going to be. I don't know what exactly happens to my characters. The story is as much an adventure to me writing it as it is to those reading it for the first time.

The Seraphimé Saga began this way. It ended up being two books.

The Great Man series began this way. It ended up being five books.

Every single short story I have ever written had started out this way.

My afore mentioned nosey friends laugh about how mixed up my stories must be. Surely there are major plot inconsistencies? There must be gaping holes everywhere one looks. Then they go on about how poorly everything must flow, how badly fleshed out my characters must be, how terrible my imagery, place-setting, etc.

All without reading a single word.

Sure, I didn't go to school to to be formally instructed on how to plan every step of a story. Sure, I do it differently than they teach at those institutions. That doesn't make it wrong, or inferior. In fact, other than a mix up with seasons/time in The Seraphimé Saga, most everything turned out as if I'd painstakingly plotted every single point.

Here's the thing, nay-sayers. I trust my characters. When that ghost of a person floats around in my head and says, 'Let me tell you how it came to be.' I trust that they will tell me how it came to be. They've yet to let me down.

In fact, my characters, or rather, these characters (they are far too free-willed for me to make any claims of possession), are so insistent on telling me, that if I try telling them (i.e. - plotting the story before I write it), I run into serious, serious trouble. The example that most sticks out in my mind, and it's the same example I use each time because it turned me into a complete wreck, is during the writing of the final part of The Great Man series.

A character I was extremely fond of died. It was a very brave, very noble death, mind. But he still died. I didn't want him to die. I fought that death tooth and nail. Fighting with the story had me stuck in limbo for fully six months. The story refused to budge until that character died. It took everything out of me to write that death. I wrote with tears streaming down my face. When it was all said and done, I was in such distress, I had to call my mother. Even thinking about it now, I get all bleary-eyed.

Once that death was written, however, the rest of the story gushed out of me like a dam had burst. Three weeks later, the entire series was more or less written.

The weird thing is, I had plotted out The Great Man series at the very earliest stages of writing. Once I had the ending, the protagonist and a couple of scenes, I set about marking every single plot point I possibly could. The story, however, had other ideas. Once I started writing, I found that the flow of words was inescapable, and that flow was taking me places I hadn't planned. When I tried to swim against the current, as it were, I found myself drowning. Things became a lot easier when I went with the flow. The story I have now is vastly different from the story I had plotted. I'm not sorry about it either. Julian's version is much, much better than my own.

My writing process is very much intuitive. It isn't as structured as some people's writing processes. Both have their merits. I have found that the structured approach just doesn't work for me, though not for lack of trying.

As far as editing afterwards goes, I have found that I'm editing for much the same things as someone with a more structured approach would. I'm editing out passive voice (or trying very hard to), spelling and grammar issues, and so forth. These are all things people who write from a pre-prepared plot edit as well. I've very rarely had issues with continuity. The characters know their stuff.

So, people who tell me, or anyone else, that their writing process is 'wrong' or 'inferior,' go jump! It works for me, just as yours works for you. There is no one 'correct' way to write.

I really should have titled today's post 'Ranting About Writing.'

What about you? What is your writing process?


Genevieve said...

Sonz, I love how you write!! To have characters come to you and tell you their story is fabulous, going with the flow is a very important part of writing (and existing mind you)... by flow I don't mean what everyone else is doing but flow, the feeling of being a part of something bigger, a stream of consciousness, where things feel right, effortless, beautiful. Some people work all their lives to try to get this feeling and you can tap into it straight away with your writing. That's wonderful and something that your so called friends should value and aspire to. Writing shouldn't be about dry plot planning and fitting words around a structure. It should burst forth like a spring, capture your imagination and sweep you away on adventures. That to me is a true writing and you are a true writer!! Love you!!!

S.M. Carrière said...

Aw, shucks, Gens. You made me blush.

For the other readers out there, it's a sister's bias, but I'll take what I can get. Shameless, I know.