Friday, October 14, 2011

The Forest for the Trees

Yes, I changed the look of the blog. Much like my personal spaces, I occasionally get the urge to rearrange things.

It's also thematic.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the different paths and roads I've taken to get to where I am in my writing--how far my skill has progressed, what process works best for the way I write, what actions I've taken thus far to get better.

1. Mapless--I started writing stories by the seat of my pants, no idea where to begin, definitely no clue how to end, and often sparked by a single image or character. I started a lot of stories this way, but eventually finished one or two.

2. Obsessively marking my path after I've walked there--Like Gretal and her brother leaving breadcrumbs in their wake, or someone buying a postcard in every town they come to, I shifted slightly, still no clear objective of where I was going, but starting to keep track of where I'd been. I have one story with a separate file with chapter-by-chapter descriptions, another with scene-by-scene descriptions (and scene titles! I was listening to a lot of My Chemical Romance at the time, too). Helpful, but not quite the best route for me.

3. Not leaving the house without a map--well, more like, taking a few steps outside, realizing I had no map but did have a long way to go, and rushing back inside to rummage through things until I found a map. That's where I'm at right now. My clockwork ghost story is one that I wanted to write after I knew where I was going with it. What's the climax and what are a few of the main events? I had a beginning, I had hints and plenty of characters, more than I knew what to do with, but no clear plot. I left home, walked a bit, and hit a forest with far too much undergrowth to see any path, right or wrong.

This Thursday, I had a meeting at work, so got to spend a hour an a half on the bus. I decided that was a great amount of time to stop piddlefarting around and finally figure out what this story was doing. I drew a timeline. I marked the beginning of the story X, then starting filling in the information and events that I knew, X-18 years when our protagonist was born, X-23 when her parents met the greasy Cunningham, X+2 days when she hints her first big break, and promptly collapses and nearly dies. And so on. By the time I reached my destination, I knew where I was going (in the story). It's a great feeling, and it seems like this story I'd been dancing around is finally ready to be written. I am now doing my ~happywiggle~ dance.

None of these is the "perfect" method for me (assuming perfection exists). Even #3 took far too long to be reasonable. So I have not found my ninja way, but I'm getting closer. Ultimately, this just emphasizes the reminder "There is no one right way to write."

Find the way that works for you, but even as you search, keep writing.

Happy writing, everyone.

[I don't know why I can't see my followers anymore, though. Sad. I still <3 you all, though.]


Jennifer Ambrose said...

Buses and trains are a writer's best friends! So happy to hear that at the moment you're on your way to a wonderful destination with your story! Maybe there's something symbolic about transportation that helps the creative process??

Nah, it's probably just the lack of anything else to do.

Sabrina said...

It works especially well once we hit the highway, even though the roads are kind of pothole-y. Maybe because everyone mentally settles in, and generally no one is moving around very much. That sense of "getting in the groove" transfers over to the writing.

But of course, I am just as likely to listen to music and stare vaguely out the window. :P