A Writing Process

Photo Credit Used under a CC license
Photo Credit Used under a CC license

QUESTION: Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the
two?

I do a bit of both. I wish I did wholly one or wholly the other. I fantasize that would make writing easier.

This is what I usually** do:

  1. I see an image or hear a sentence that is visually evocative. Things I find visually arresting tend to be disturbing. I ask myself “What is this image? Why is it the way it is? What happens next?”
  2. I imagine what is going on around this image by creating a movie in my mind.
  3. I write for a bit to see where it takes me (sometimes it takes me nowhere. On those days I consider heavy drinking and/or taking up needlepoint)
  4. I try to puzzle out plotlines and characters that make sense given the answers I gave myself in step 1.
  5. I pace the apartment arguing with myself about motivation (“Who wants it this way? Why do they benefit? What might they do to stop it from changing?”). This alarms the cat.
  6. I grab some notecards and write a summary of each scene I have in mind on a card. I arrange and re-arrange the cards on the floor, trying to rough in a story arc.
  7. Then I try to poke holes in the story arc. Where did I miss something? What needs to happen before scene X so that scene X makes sense?
  8. I find that initial drafts often have the correct components, but in the wrong order, so I think a lot about pacing and structure, re-arranging scenes (and notecards) like they are units of Lego.

I think my process itself is part of what leads me into intermittent writers’ block (that and crippling self-criticism, but that’s another blog post). My friend Christine gets all the way to the end of her first draft before she starts to worry about logic, sense, story arc and so on. I have promised myself that if I can get Blood Rain finished I will try her method in the next one, Downward Dog. I’ve deliberately avoided doing any structuring or meta-planning on DD for that reason. Christine also has the great good sense to work on one project at a time. This bit of rationality escapes me completely.

One thing I know for sure is that good things can come from locking yourself in a room with no distractions. Being willing to do that without listening to any of my own excuses may be a more important factor that use of logic or use of intuition.

** The second chapter in Blood Rain is the exception. The doings in the warehouse were lifted as one piece from a vivid dream I had. I tinkered with it, of course– in the dream I was in the POV of Dougherty, observing Suzanne do magic. When I wrote the scene, I had to re-imagine it from a first person POV.  The joke about Costco was added in later, and ended up dictating some details regarding setting. (If you’re gonna joke about Costco, you may as well set parts of the story in Kirkland, WA, hometown of Costco, right?)

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