Thursday, March 08, 2012

Get Lost Writing

Writing for me has always been an act of discovery. 

At various times you will feel like Magellan, or Columbus.  Others you will feel like the Donner Party.  You will feel these at varying times throughout the process of writing the same novel, if you're anything like me.  And at some point, you will experience another feeling - the sheer elation of knowing you are the first person to ever lay eyes on this undiscovered country of a novel.  That's the way it feels to me when a novel reaches that tipping point, when the mass is so great that the collapse from dust into light becomes to powerful to deny.  I've felt this feeling before, a couple times.  It's a great feeling.  I feel it now, as I'm 211 pages into the novel that I've documented here recently on the blog (otherwise known as the #scifijohnhughesbook).  A lot of the disparate threads - fits and starts really - that I've experimented with over the last few years are finally bearing fruit. 

This tends to be the way I work.  I generate a lot of material early on.  A lot of varied beginnings.  I write quite a bit that eventually gets discarded, but some of it proves useful in the end.  A line of dialogue.  A setting.  A character.  An entire scene, as was the case yesterday.  A scene that I had been trying to fit like a puzzle piece into the wrong place for a very long time just fell right into where I see now it was always meant to - about 200 pages into this book.  So why does it feel right now as opposed to the seven or eight other times I thought it was finally working?  I can only say because I have the same sense now of understanding with the book that I had with The Book of Elizabeth; this is the way it's supposed to be.  This is the puzzle complete.

Some writers will argue this is why you should outline.  If you don't, you'll spend a lot of time wandering in the woods like me.  I can't say they don't have a point, but wandering in the woods is how you find things.  Get lost.  Literally.  Discoveries aren't made any other way.  You'll take the long way, and develop a lot of material you ultimately won't use.  But never throw anything away.  I don't.  There are snippets of this book five years old or more, from disparate sources; the same is true of Elizabeth, which features a paragraph originally written in college ten years ago.  Many of my short stories, particularly "News Right Fresh From Heaven," gestated in other forms for years before finally coming together into their final shape.  "News" actually began life as a different story entirely four years before it was published in Fantasy Magazine last year.

I'm kind of collector when it comes to writing, I guess.  I was going to say hoarder, but that's not true.  All my writing, all the paths that lead nowhere and fragments I hold on to, it all serves a purpose.  Eventually.

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