Hey debs – Thanks a million for having me here! I’m honored to be filling in today!
Okay, now to the nitty-gritty.
For me, the writing process is not unlike going to the gym: I know that I should, I know that I have to, but that doesn’t mean that I haul my butt there any faster. And of course, just as I do when I wipe the sweat from my brow and walk off the treadmill after an invigorating run, I always feel damn good when I’m done, both my workout and my daily writing.
All of this is a metaphorical way of saying that my writing process doesn’t always come easy.
The process actually begins long before I sit down at my computer. When I’m really in a writing zone, I’m thinking about my characters and story development nearly all the time – in the shower, walking the dog, on that painful treadmill. I’ll have “a-ha” moments, and dash to my keyboard to spit them out. When I’m lucky. Other times, after processing a general idea of where I want the story to go and what I want it to say, I force myself to sit down and write for an hour, even if what I write is total crap and even if I know I’m going to edit the hell out of it, I write. Generally, I’m pleasantly surprised at what I’m able to churn out. But that hour is a painful one. I’m constantly eyeing the little clock at the right hand corner of my computer and checking my word count. If I reach 1000 words before the hour is up, it’s a very, very good day. And if the hour winds down and I’m still not at 1000, I try to eke out a few more genius (or most likely not genius) paragraphs.
Some writers are meticulous about preplanning where their story is going to go and the various intricacies that their characters will embody. But this sort of mapping doesn’t work for me. I do like to have a general story arc: why the characters find themselves in their current situations, what entanglements they’re mucking through, and where these entanglements might lead them. But I found, especially when writing The Department of Lost and Found, that when you really breathe life into these characters, they’ll take you in unexpected places – places I’d never have foreseen if I’d conceived a giant outline from the get-go – and as a result, the characters’ transformations and their journeys feel organic and true. And, as a reader, that’s all I think you can ask for. And, as a writer, I think that’s really what you aspire to.
What does this all add up to? I guess that for most people, the writing process isn’t an easy one. I read a survey that said that something like 80% of people think they can write a novel. Guess what? They can’t. It ain’t that easy. (And this certainly isn’t an insult: there are a gajillion jobs that I couldn’t do either.) And if you’re out there plugging away at your own book, keep plugging. Just because you struggle doesn’t mean that you’re not talented or that your book won’t be brilliant. And while you’re writing that sure-to-be-bestseller, do know that there’s no right or wrong way to get to The End. Write how ever you need to, as long as it feels honest, you’re on the right track.