There are different ways to approach the creative writing process, different facets. Each week, I will break down these vast regions of unexplored creativity. Here’s how that’ll happen:
- A Hint of Almost: This is where the story idea appears. What inspires the tales we tell? Here I’ll explore where my ideas come from.
- Woods Between the Worlds: That space place where creation and imagination and drive meet. It’s different than finding story ideas. This is putting them on paper.
- A Good Day to Dye: Not merely editing. This is revision. Seeing again. Why I make the page bleed red.
- Importance of a Name: Names matter. How do find them? What does it mean? Are they really important?
- Afterward: My closing thoughts. Any random conclusions or other thoughts I’d like to say. Maybe a preview for the next week.
I’m sure there are more important sections. Well, more “more important” so much as “additional” sections. See, writing is a fluid process. Every sector bleeds into the other. But, first, always, come inspiration. That’s where we’ll begin.
A Hint of Almost: Inspiration may and often does strike anywhere. That’s the etymology of EUREKA. Literally the phrase translates to “I have found [it].” Of Ancient Greek origin, Archimedes is said to have been sitting in a bath when the solution to a problem, in this particular case the mass displacement in water.
Science? That’s what you’re talking about? you ask.
It’s a fair question, after all, I promised insight into my creating writing and inspiration process. But that’s the point. The ideas? They come from all around. When I’m talking on the phone with my mother or sitting on the couch with my brother watching baseball. Visiting a state park. Science fiction routinely uses mundane science to spin worlds of wonder and beauty.
Here is a story: the inspiration for the title of the section you’re currently reading. “A Hint of Almost.” What it means exactly, I’ll explore a little later. But, originally, the words came from a line I’d written about drinking cider. I had intended to use the description “a hint of almond.” Except, upon rereading, I noticed I had actually typed “A hint of almost.” Slightly mollified, I changed the text.
Except, that mistype stayed with me. There was something about that phrase, unknown yet still tangible. I could feel a meaning there somewhere and I couldn’t let it go. So I jotted it down in my notes and carried on. Until I started working out this blog. “A Hint of Almost” is the sense the nagging sensation at the base of my skull, when I know something is there, just beyond my vision. An idea, not quite formed, sleeping at the back of my mind. The hint that something is almost there, that inspiration is coming.
Woods Between the Worlds: Ideas want to be kept for posterity somewhere. Putting them into words works every time. See, as similar as having the inspiration is to have a story, they aren’t the same. The hardest part for me is sitting down to write. Not necessarily writing, but sitting down and telling myself it’s going to happen.
The strangest concept to wrap my head around is how much of is a choice or an excuse. Often times, when I write, I have to trick myself into thinking a “mood” have to exist. The proper time, the proper desk. Turns out that’s just procrastination but looking back, it’s amazing how often I’ve told myself that.
What is it really? I’ll discuss writers block and procrastination in another post, but on cursory review, I’d say it’s a combination of both. Writers need to feel comfortable to write. If that’s blocking out all distractions in a library or sitting in a coffee shop, the will to write needs to present itself.
I find that’s true of anything I’ve written: thesis paper or fiction. Of course, my thesis could have been fiction, but that’s something else entirely. Yes, there is writers block and waiting for inspiration, for the words to come and put themselves on the page. What I’m really talking about is the ability to know where writing happens.
For my academic work, that was the university library, at a desk in the back of the first floor. There I could pretend no one else existed. Of course, I also needed a window seat. Not to let fresh air in, but so that I could look up and see the world beyond, let my mind wander.
Simply put, the “Woods Between the Worlds” is making yourself write. Doesn’t matter how good you are, how bad the idea is. All that really matters is getting it down on paper.
I’ll discuss other thoughts on topics like writers block later on.
A Good Day to Dye: Not the best pun, but I like Klingon’s. This is the revision section.
Wait! Isn’t revision the same as editing?
Not even close. Editing is defined as: “to prepare (as literary material) for publication or public presentation.” So, sure, I suppose that qualifies them as the same thing. But, if we break down the word, revision is “re” and “vision.” Re is the prefix meaning “again”. Vision refers to the “act of seeing.” Thus, we’re seeing the work again. Looking at what we’ve accomplished with fresh eyes. That’s a much larger task, yet intimate.
I view editing as the correction of grammar and spelling. These are the final tools with which I prepare my work, any work, for submission.
REvision is when I take out an entire half of my novel because I know that it’s not working. Someday, I’ll post a photo of what that looks like for me.
But don’t be afraid. The ideas you’re slashing and bleeding out don’t have to be lost. I keep a scrap thoughts folder for all the forgotten works, even as small as a quote, that I’ve tossed aside. Revision murders my original concept, almost always hacking away the finer details till I’m left with a mangled corpse. But that’s beauty, see? As Admiral Adama tells Chief Tyrol in the Reimagined Battlestar Galactica: “There are many copies. You’ll see her again.” These words will come back to me again when I need them.
Importance of a Name: I’m not fond of the title for this section. I’ll admit that. But, I’ll let it sit till I’m with the revision. For now, I’ll say that I have conflicting feelings on this matter. There’s an idea, often discussed among my friends, about whether authors put too much time into names that readers will either never care about or understand the origins of. That’s a discussion for another time, involving creative geniuses such as JR Tolkien and GRR Martin and JK Rowling.
The short version is names do matter. Not necessarily to the reader but to the creative process. Names need a pattern to follow, internal logic, rules. Follow those and generally, it all works out. In future posts, I’ll follow this more in depth, as well as my perception of names and my processes.
Afterword: If I were a chemistry major still, this is the conclusion. This is the basic outline for how I plan to conduct these posts.
Writing is a tricky subject. Often, it appears straight forward, but communicating the world in your mind to those around you is often the hardest thing to do. As I’ve said, I majored in Chemistry in college. Almost, accidentally, Psychology. I’m not an English major, I don’t know the in’s and out’s of language, the subtleties of grammer, and the purpose behind prose. All I can say for sure is that everything I do, I do by feel. Every character moment, every revision, every plot, every page is composed on instinct. There is no technical precision. When I look at the words I’ve created or the words I want to create, the only result I’m looking for is the one where I feel satisfaction reading the page. The grammar and spelling are someone else’s job. That someone can be an editor, a peer reader, or myself.
Meaning no offense to my friends who were english majors in college, I don’t really care about their opinions. Many were those who learned to hate the technicality of our language or those who are most unfortunately portrayed as hipsters and elitists. There’s got to exist some sort of balance. Maybe that’s the point. After all, one of my favorite authors is Stewart O’Nan. He was an engineer before becoming an author.
Either way, everyone’s got a story to tell. Here’s mine. See you next week for another exploration of my writing process.
And don’t forget, every Tuesday I’ll be conducting a book/story review. This Tuesday it will be The Signal and the Noise, by Nate Silver. Though how one fairly breaks down a book structured around analytic’s should be fun to see.