For the WIP I’m “writing” these days, I’m following a different path than I’m used to. And this new path involves an awful lot of non-writing. Also called thinking.
My husband, just this morning says that 90% of writing is actually thinking. Now granted, he’s a design engineer, but he does do a lot of creating in his work, and he has modified BIC (Butt in Chair) to BICFODSASWC (Butt in Chair, Feet on Desk, Staring at Screen, with Coffee).
For me, it’s tea, and I don’t do so well staring at the screen, but it’s the same theme.
For previous projects, I definitely did a lot of thinking, and much of that was ahead of time, but it was also with my hands on the keyboard, fitting things into the plot I was growing and the characters I was developing. Not so much, this time around.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m going through Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. It has become my thinking tool. Donald asks me questions, and I start looking for the answers. Now I could grab those answers out of my brain, scribble them down quickly, and move onto the next. You know, like this was one of those horrid, timed finals from college, where you had to come across as clever as possible in as short a time as you could manage (legibly!).
But that’s not what I’m doing. Instead, I’m dropping Donald’s questions into my brain (and my story) and seeing where they lead me. And they’re leading me in all sorts of direction. I have gotten a surprise the last three days I’ve done this work–a surprise that I’m pretty sure deepens and strengthens the story.
Do I have much idea of where all these layers will go–what the scene sequence needs to be, or what the cause-and-effect connections are? Not yet, although a sense of this is simmering along with all the other details. But–and here’s what I think is important–I am getting to KNOW this story, the people in it, SO much better than I ever have before. And I’m thinking (hoping) that this knowledge will have to pay off, when the writing starts.
Is all this magic because of the workbook? Well, a lot is, I think. The other part comes from me being ready for what Maass is talking about. And from using the part of the writing craft I already know, to go beyond what the worksheets ask me to do.
We tell ourselves that every hour, day, year that we put into this writing this makes us better writers, raises our skill level, but sometimes I think we don’t really believe it. We want to get “there” so badly that we are impatient with the time–and practice–that “there” requires of us.
I’m still impatient. I still want “there.” For now, though, I’m enjoying the path, the sparks that are flying between what I’ve already learned and I’m learning now. This is magic.