Let’s take some to write about process. Ok, first thing is first, I need to put in a small disclaimer. All writers are different. While there may be similarities in working practice that does not mean that all writers work in the same way. I’m saying that to hopefully prevent a debate on my own practice! I don’t proclaim myself an expert, all I can do is share my thoughts.
So unless you’ve never heard of me before, or this is your first visit, I’ll say again Explicit Instruction is now out and available for purchase here. Writers can work on several projects simultaneously, priorities have to be set, but just because you’re writing/editing/publishing one novel doesn’t mean our imaginations shut down. It’s not as simple as, “That’s my latest novel out, what’s next?” I’m already toward the end of my next project!
To write about my whole process would lead to a novel sized blog, we’re obviously not going to do that. So we select one part, let’s start at the beginning.
Loosely there are two kinds of writer, the planner and the pantser. More often than not those methods will occasionally blend or overlap. But every story starts with an idea. Sometimes it’s a line of dialogue, sometimes it’s something we see in our day-to-day lives that has us smiling to ourselves in the most inappropriate of situations. But every story starts with an idea.
It’s not as simple to say that the idea creates the novel. It doesn’t. Not even close. There are ways that writers can encourage ideas. It can get to the point where you literally have to sit at your computer, snap your fingers and say, “Be creative – now!” There are times you have to force an idea but once you have it the process usually becomes more organic. But we’ll get to that another day.
If you’re a fledgling or aspiring writer it’s important to recognise these moments. The flicker of inspiration can be brief. But when it strikes you have to mentally acknowledge it. Writer’s block is a different thing. Motivation in the midst of writing is different. However, inspiration doesn’t strike with a lightening bolt or flash neon in front of your eyes. It doesn’t stand up and declare itself. Often The Spark is something intangible. I’ve experienced The Spark while standing in the street, I’ve had it while looking at art, I’ve had it in the middle of conversation about a completely unrelated issue. I’ve had it in the middle of the night while I’m “sleeping”.
So what does it look like? How do you recognise it? If it doesn’t declare itself how do we know if we’ve experienced it? Simple. Any thought that creates an emotional response can be channeled into our work.
You need an example? Ok, you’re walking down the street, late in the evening, and you see a bunch of teenagers walking down toward you in a gang. Maybe you’re wary, your sixth sense prickles, you experience fear. There, right there, you can use that emotion to create, maybe the heroine is walking down the street, enveloped by the gang and mugged. Inspiration. Or maybe the teenagers laugh and lark around until they see an elderly person struggling with their shopping, then the gang run over and help. Again, this could be used as inspiration, maybe in that gang one member stands out, maybe a relationship of trust develops and the teenager becomes like a surrogate child, maybe they end up inheriting the elderly person’s unknown millions. Maybe one of the teenagers falls over and is mocked, so maybe your hero and heroine meet when one falls at the feet of the other.
This is of course a very simplistic and general concept. But it’s about recognising that moment and finding a way to tailor it to lead to another moment in the plot and another. Whether you sit down and write immediately, or take notes and flesh out the story, every novel begins with an idea.
It doesn’t have to be something physical. Maybe it is merely a thought in your head, maybe a “what if…” scenario. It could come from anywhere, but you have to recognise it.
This is the boring bit. You’ll have heard it a million times before. But it’s impossible to stress this enough. If you have an idea, no matter how huge, or how tiny – write it down! Get yourself a good quality notebook, something durable enough that it will last a lifetime. You’ll go back to it. I promise you. You’ll never remember it. Write The Spark down. Put as much detail as you can, and if you can, spend some time with The Spark. In writing down The Spark you’ll find yourself having another idea, one leads to the next. No matter how disparate or uncertain it seems, write down everything that comes into your mind.
So always remember, there are ideas everywhere, and all it takes is experience. Find the idea, write it down, the rest is a dawdle… ok, so maybe it’s not. But without The Spark there is no novel. You need The Spark. Locate it. Record it. And you’re on your way…
Good luck on your adventures,