Sudden Bursts of Inspiration

Yesterday I was taking a shower, and suddenly I had a whole scene just pop into my head.  A scene from a book I wasn’t writing.  It included dialogue, character descriptions, narration, everything! Aside from the bizzaro factor, it was awesome!! I hurried out, pulled out my trusty ole laptop, and typed it down as fast as I could.

Anyways, I was wondering if this kind of thing happens often to anyone else? It’s a very rare occasion for me, although I know other authors have said they’ve had whole books practically fall into their heads.  J.K. Rowling, for example, claims that the idea of Harry Potter just came to her, fully formed.  Lucky…Also, I wrote about Robert Louis Stevenson and his whole little people thing in this post here, so apparently it does happen.  Just usually not to me.

Now I’m left in a quandary.  Previously I mentioned how I was having trouble writing.  I started about three different stories and then just stopped, then started something new.  It’s been an ongoing issue ever since I finished the first draft to my sequel and decided I needed to write about different characters now.  Anyhow, I finally managed to get into a story, and I’m now about 17,000 words in, so it’s coming along, but now thanks to this flash of inspiration I have this new story I’ve started, which is exciting and interesting and unlike anything I’ve ever written before (kind of sci-fi punk/dystopian future).  So.  Which should I work on?

I know how I am.  As soon as I actively stop working on a story for more than a couple of days, that story is dead.  I might look at it later and think, hmm, that’s a pretty interesting story.  I wonder where I was going with that? But I won’t go back in and finish it.  I’m not sure why, but there are probably a good fifty unfinished bits of stories on my computer, some of them really long, and there they’ll sit.  Unfinished forever.  It’s like the great story graveyard, or something.  So now, do I resign my 17,000 words to this little bit of literary limbo, or do I put aside the 5,000 words I typed in my rush to this new story?

Conundrum.

Loving those intuitive writing moments

Alright, I’m back from my writing-cation, and I almost met my goal.  I got to about 19,000 words for the weekend, and I was aiming for 20,000, so not so bad.  Definitely more than I’ve ever written in a three-day period before.  And the best part is I have one last chapter and I’ll be done with my first draft.  Then the real fun begins…

One thing I noticed while writing is that I began to get more intuitive lurches.  Things like, “you need to have this character show up now,” etc.  The longer I wrote, the more I felt like I was getting a little bit of help, little nudges in the right direction.  I talked about this briefly in an earlier post–the ability to write intuitively without a real plan, but I wanted to talk about it some more because it is the part of the writing process I’m most interested in.

There was an interesting post by Tribal Writer recently about how you shouldn’t write what you know, but instead, “write what you want to know, or write what you don’t know, but will discover in the telling.”  I found this intriguing because I always felt like writing what I know would be problematic, since I like to write fantasy, or at least have a supernatural twist to my stories, and at least so far in my life I have yet to develop magical talents.  The day is still young, but I don’t really see that in my future.  So, instead I would start with something I know, and then imagine how that would change.  For instance, my current WIP is about a fourteen-year-old girl who is locked into manacles by the god of death and forced into another world.  Not something I would know much about, but as I wrote I’d try to picture what that would be like, and go from there.

I think the best writing advice is not “write what you know,” but “write what you love.”  If you’re enjoying what you’re writing about, then other people will enjoy reading it.  It’s sort of how you can tell if someone is smiling when you’re talking to them on the phone, you can tell if a writer is having a good time.  And while writing, you just need to trust that your subconscious will help you out, if you relax and listen to it.

Published in: on May 17, 2010 at 9:51 am  Comments (1)  
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Clueless Writing – Is it bad if you have no plan?

Proof that you don't need a plan to be happy

I’ve decided to veer away from villains and protagonists and all that fun stuff for now and talk about the writing process in general.  It is my opinion that there are two types of writers: the planners and the poor saps who never learned how to write a friggin’ outline.  Guess which category I fall into? It seems like some people can carefully plot out their whole storyline, occasionally jotting down particular scenes that they see in their head during their planning stages, giving little notes about the different characters along the way, and generally being annoying with their tightly plotted stories and ridiculous organizational skills.  Clearly, I am very envious of these people.

Then there are the other people, like me, who just start writing without a plan.  Sure, I start off with a vague idea, or really more of an impression, but I usually have no idea where I want my story to go, or what’s going to happen along the way.  I just write and try really hard not to think about what I’m writing, because as soon as I start thinking, I realize I don’t have a clue what I’m writing about and I freeze, panicked, the whole process crashing down around my ears.  While this doesn’t seem like the best system, there are definitely pros to it as well.  For instance, since I have no idea where my story is going, it feels more spontaneous to me, and I’m never really bored while working on it.  In fact, writing without a plan is like reading, only at the end of a couple of hours you’ve gone through much less story and you’re exhausted.

I was thinking about this today, while working on my current WIP.  I call unplanned writing “intuitive writing,” and it’s actually pretty neat how it works.  Usually, the first draft has gaping plot holes the size of Kansas all over it, but in between these sad, terrible pieces of writing, there are some really good things that just come together.  Even without a plan, my subconscious seems to know what it’s doing, at least a little, and if I’m in the flow and I listen, occasionally I’ll get little nudges, like, “you need to bring back this character in the next scene,” or “here’s where she needs to find out x information.”  Little hints like that.  Which makes me wonder occasionally who’s really writing these stories…I heard that Robert Louis Stevenson had little people in his dreams that he molded into a story factory, and they are the ones who gave him the idea for “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and wow that last sentence sounds really crazy written out like that.  I’ll go into that idea more in a later, crazier post…

Anyways, I’ve decided not to be envious of people who can actually plan out a story ahead of time, because I think both styles of writing will get you where you need to go in the end.  The key is really trusting yourself enough to complete the story, whether you’re using an outline or are just throwing yourself into it NaNoWriMo style.  But, as an experiment, I’m going to try to outline my next story before I start.  I’ll let you know if it turns out to be an abysmal failure…