Friday, March 4, 2016
I know next to nothing about basketball, but when March Madness hits, I see people scrambling to predict who will win. They even put down money to back their frenzied calculations.
It can be like that with that first idea when you are writing. It explodes in a mad frenzy of possibilities. All we want is that big win at the end. And we want to get to the end. As soon as possible. Now. Do not pass Go. Do not pause to collect the two hundred dollars.
When we are first getting our story down on paper, it may be fragmented. As my writer friends know, I am a fan of working in coffee shops, and I use coffee shop analogies freely and often. So . . . imagine a busy coffee shop—in a big city. You have just moved to the neighborhood and you are visiting it for the first time.
There is a lot going on, but a great deal of it is just a thin surface layer. You go into the coffee shop and the customers are all your characters, major and minor. You see them—you might see what they are wearing, but you really don’t know anything about them yet.
You hear bits and pieces of conversations, but you aren’t interacting with anyone but the barista or the guy at the counter.
You are seated in a corner by yourself, trying to make sense of all that is going on around you. People are on their laptops, not paying any attention to you. People are in pairs and groups, having their own conversations. You are excited about being in this new place, but you really aren’t comfortable yet.
The next day, things get a little more familiar. You notice some people from the day before. Someone gives you a recognizing nod. You start to notice how the customers are interacting with each other. You sense the tension between the couple by the window. You notice the woman off to the side appears to have slept in her clothes. You start to wonder about their stories.
Each day, each revision, you add another layer.
You may think you have your story down pat—especially if you are an extensive note taker or an outliner. I heard about a writer, who wrote her entire novel in her head while she was gardening. Finished the entire thing. Then she went home and put the words down on paper.
We all want to be done. It’s human nature to want to see a job through to the end. It is the best feeling in the world to type THE END. But for a writer, the first time you type those words, it usually just means the beginning. It’s the beginning of your layering process. The beginning of your revision.
I used to hate it. But I look forward to it now. It means my words are turning into a real story. So don’t get sucked in by the March Madness. Slow down and enjoy the ride.