How Do I Write? Let Me Count the Ways.

Okay, I admit it: I am a closet pencilphile. Seems silly, I know, in this electronic age, but I write in pencil on loose-leaf paper. There. I’ve outed myself. I feel so much better now.

I am not being contrary. I do have reasons. I have a better mind/writing connection using pencil and paper than I have with a keyboard; a mechanical pencil is easier on my fingers than pen, and paper is easier on my eyes than a computer screen.

For me, fiction writing is largely a matter of thinking, of trying to see the situation, of figuring out the right word or phrase that puts me where I need to be so the words can flow. I can do this better in bed, clipboard propped against my knees or on a pillow than sitting at a desk. If, as Mel Gibson said, “A movie is like public dreaming,” then novels are like shared dreaming, and where better to dream than in a comfortable bed?

I don’t know the entire story before I writing, but I do know the beginning, the end, and some of the middle. That way I can have it both ways: planning the book and making room for surprises.

I need to know a bit about the hero, but most of the time I get to know the characters the same way a reader would — by the way the characters act. In my work-in-progress, I thought I had a mother who was manipulative, but a reader pointed out that if that’s what I wanted, I needed to show it better. I reread the sections with the mother and decided not to impose my will on her. Although she drove her son crazy, I saw her in the rereading as sad, as if she were trying to find a way to fit in the world or make it fit her, and that was much better for purposes of the story.

I need to write the story in the order it happens — it’s more satisfying for my logical mind and easier to keep track of — but if I get to a place where I know something happens without knowing what, I will skip it and go back later when I know what is missing.

So, there you have it. That’s how I write.

What about you? How do you write? Do you have a favorite place or a place that puts you in the proper frame of mind? Do you write from start to finish, or like Margaret Mitchell, do you start with the last chapter and work forward? Do you have to search for the words?

2 Responses to “How Do I Write? Let Me Count the Ways.”

  1. Suzanne Francis Says:

    I have a very large, somewhat cluttered desk, and a lap top. I normally use an external keyboard and a wireless mouse. My desk is in the living room of my house, and if the TV is on I listen to music through headphones. I don’t find this as distracting, but no one can figure out why.

    I start at the beginning and end at the end, but if I am intercutting two POV’s I often press ahead with one story if I know where it is going and then catch up with the other.

    Sometimes I get in a lovely space where everything flows, and other times every word is a struggle. I persist either way.

  2. Bertram Says:

    Suzanne, Thanks for responding. I love knowing how other people write; I find it fascinating.


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