I wanted to talk to you about the process of writing. I have read so many great advice articles about it and I thought to myself, “I’m a writer. I have advice to give, right?” Well, apparently if it’s there, it’s buried deeper inside of me than my little ceramic angel on my front yard today (Snowmagedon 2.0).
I seem to do things out of intuition rather than following any perceived and/or planned process. This is not just with writing. My teaching is the same way (try to explain that one to your principal) and so is anything in the creative realm of my brain. I am a pantser, but I do some planning. The problem is, I often change my plans as I go along or forget them altogether.
Normally when I start a piece, be it a long novel or just flash fiction, I start with a kernel of an idea and I just let my imagination take me wherever it wants to take me. Don’t get me wrong; this “system” has a lot of flaws. For instances, I often forget what my characters look like and then I find myself searching the whole finished manuscript for inconsistencies. It is not unusual for one of my main characters to start with brown and end up with green eyes. I’ve been training myself to write these things down as I go along so I avoid these time-consuming mistakes. I have tried character questionnaires and interviews. They are fun, but just like with real people I find it very difficult to describe the entirety of my characters’ personalities, likes and dislikes off-hand. They are a work-in-progress, they grow as the story grows and like most of us they change and adapt to whatever situation I throw at them. The same goes for the plot. It grows and stretches and demands certain things that I could not possibly have planned ahead.
My so-called process probably does not deserve the name since I, myself, can’t really explain it. It is something that comes from inside of me as a seed and grows to a story. But, of course, I need the tools to do so. If I hadn’t learn to write properly or been a reader and a student of other authors’ art, no matter how creative I may be I would have never been able to write them. A solid piece of advice I can give any aspiring writer is to read. A lot! And not just read, but to pay close attention to the way the author writes, the words he/she uses and how he/she uses them. Writing is part creativity, part structure. For any writing to be good both parts have to be present.
Writing is sometimes a lot like weaving or knitting. Instead of yarn you are weaving all your experiences, your dreams, your fantasies into one story. Conversations you’ve overheard, a character you once met at a party or in the supermarket, a place you visited when you were twelve or a language you heard someone speak once. That’s the magic of writing; turning what could have been the most banal thing into something special.
Whatever your “process” is, the most important thing you can do is pay attention to your surroundings and let the ideas flow. And of course, your heart out.