Cancel Everything. Write and Discover.

A couple months ago, I was publicly weighing the options of how to write book three of my trilogy. I first stated how great outlining was, though I rarely used it before. Then I followed that up by stating that I just need to discover where I’m going before I get there.

I’m not a good third way into my novel and I realize how ridiculous all of this sounded. I can’t plan or outline or discover anything until I start writing.

Writing is outlining. Writing is planning. Writing is discovering. At least it is for me.

I fretted and worried about where this story would be going. How silly it all seems now!

As I started writing, I have discovered ideas that I would never have thought of before. I  came across plot shifts and surprising developments that even surprised me, the writer.

How does that work? How am I so blinded by my own story that it ends up surprising me?

It must be about a lack of development. When I outline an idea, it’s just a shell with not any structure standing around it. It sounds good at the time, but it’s hollow with no substance behind it.

Then I start writing. The first idea gets developed and that leads to a new set of objectives and details which I didn’t have in my writing bag before. So I shift gears and end up going in a direction which I couldn’t have anticipated.

When I’m not writing, it’s frightening because I can’t figure out what’s going to happen.

But when I’m writing, it’s exhilarating. It’s like walking down a virgin path in the woods and discovering a mysterious cave you never new was there. I don’t think I’ll doubt myself anymore.  This is how I write. This is how I live. I can’t plan. I don’t know how to. All of my plans fall through as my never-ending brain shifts and changes at the whims of a new idea.

So I think I will strop trying to write like anyone else but myself.

I write to discover. Period. Foreever and ever. I’ll leave the outlining to those really smart writers who have a singular mind which doesn’t change.

I’ll continue to change with the whims of the air. And my mind.

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Writing (for me) is a step by step commitment

I’ve said it before that for me writing is more of a discovery process than anything else. Today, as I was thinking through a chapter I’m working on, I asked myself what I was committing to complete at this point. I realized that I am committed one hundred percent on the current chapter only, but I make no promises about what comes next.

(By the way, I love that no one is telling me where my book should go. Fiercely independent!)

My approach makes outlining for me a supercilious occupation. How dare I think that I know where my story is going!

I’m writing a chapter now, a rather poignant one, with an American in Vietnam during the summer of 1945, starring down an angry mob for reasons I don’t feel comfortable sharing at this point. It’s a difficult and important scene because it’s building towards a climax for this part of the novel.

But what’s next after this ‘climax’? I don’t really like thinking about it. I do have some ideas, and I do write down these ideas lest I lose them through the many memory holes of my cranium, but that’s really all they are. They are idea points which might or might not work depending on how things that I am presently writing turn out.

So here is my writing philosophy: be committed to what you are currently writing. Once complete, place your commitment in the next step and so on. Novels can be intimidating if you think ‘oh my goodness, I have 30,000 more words to write.’  I actually used to think that way. How am I ever going to be able to write enough words to qualify for novel length.

But that’s silly thinking. Just take it step by step. Commitment in the here and now will be reward in the future.