by Gina Sestak
A question that came up in my Saturday critique group meeting got me thinking. One of the newer members posed it, asking about the writing process. What do you actually do when you write?
That's a good question, and one we writers rarely seem to discuss.
We spend a lot of time talking about what we've written. We point out spelling and grammar gaffs and note the logical disconnects. We count pages and words. We brainstorm about agents, publishers, marketing. We compare technology and software. But how do we write?
Personally, I tend to do the first draft almost as if I'm watching a movie and jotting down what's happening on the screen - I fall into what seems to be an altered state of consciousness and lose track of time. Sometimes it feels as if I'm just describing something that's already there, bringing a pre-existing story into concrete form. As the story progresses, I get to know the characters better - not because I'm purposely making them up but as if they, like newly-met friends, are becoming comfortable enough to reveal more about themselves to me. And yet, I stop and edit as I go, jump back a page or two or twelve to change a prior passage so it leads into the part I'm writing now, restructure. I fix the grammar and spelling, jump out of the document to google a date or other fact. I don't outline, but I usually have an end in mind from the beginning - a final scene or two - and, like watching a movie, I get caught up in all the interesting things that happen to my characters along the way, from their first venture out onto a page to the (I hope) satisfying conclusion of their saga.
Other people do it completely differently. Some people start with detailed outlines. I know one writer who works through his outline several times, expanding it and fleshing it out, until that outline turns into a book. I know someone else who painstakingly crafts each chapter, trying for perfection before moving on to the next. There are probably as many ways of writing as there are writers.
So here's the question for today: How do you write?