I am fascinated by the writing process. Various authors have their own approach to crafting their stories. Some start with a big storyboard on which they place cards with their plot elements, rearranging the cards until they are satisfied. Others start with a carefully-crafted outline, building the story in detail before actually writing the words the reader will see. Some authors spend weeks or months world-building. Some write complete biographies of their characters, or at least have little note cards with important details.
I don't do any of that. I feel like a hack.
My stories nearly always start with an idea, a scene, a character. Something I want to explore. Usually these ideas come to me the way all my other ideas do.
In the shower.
Think about it. Pre-shower, my brain is dull, lifeless, but very, very susceptible to suggestion. It is in the shower my brain starts to wake. It is in the shower my mind begins to play with whatever random thought may have uncontrollably flitted across it. Once the idea starts to settle in, my waking brain can play with it.
Once the idea firmly settles in my head, and that usually takes only the duration of a shower, I am lost. The story is inside me, and it takes on life of its own. I don't write the stories, they write themselves. I have very little control over the process.
It is my characters that let me know who they are. Oh sure, I make conscious decisions about some of it. I decide how they look in my head, although I am not a very visual person, and the image of my characters is usually fleeting. I may make concrete decisions on her height or her hair. I may not. For me, it's not how the characters look, but who they turn out to be.
Sometimes they surprise me terribly.
But the story and these characters reside in my head, and they are impatient and demanding. "Let us out!" If I don't write the scene, I play it over and over in my head, intruding on my life horribly. Imagine a 45 record (do you remember those?) on repeat. If I am not satisfied with the scene, I may intentionally let it replay a few times, each time a little different, until I resolve what I don't like. Or I may start typing and let things fall where they may.
I tend to write in marathon sessions lasting hours and hours. I can easily sit still for eighteen hours on a Saturday, getting up far less often than is remotely healthy. In those times, I roll through scene after scene. This is where the biggest surprises come from. It's amazing how my characters will take over my fingers and offer the most unexpected plot twists.
Heard from my lonely writing chair:
I had no idea that was going to happen.
Well, what do you know?
No, no, no! I'm supposed to work with THAT?
Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete.
Hey, sometimes I really don't want to explore those plot twists. But sometimes they are fabulous and I go with them. I couldn't tell you where they come from, but there they are on the page.
In the end, I have a completed first draft, maybe 90,000 words. I usually figure about 80,000 of those words are poor, the rest aren't too bad. The reality is somewhat better than that, I hope.
In some ways, I envy those writers who carefully craft a novel from a storyboard or an outline. I envy those writers who write detailed descriptions of their characters and spend weeks building the world in which their characters operate.
I wish I had that sort of patience.
I don't. I hope you'll enjoy my stories anyway.