Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Process? We Don't Need No Stinking Process

I promised you I would touch on my process in this blog. It will be an interesting exercise for all of us, since it’s not something I really think about. As with most things, I suspect that I will unearth a wealth of truth behind my presuppositions. Let’s begin, shall we?

It would be ideal if the writing process went something like this:

  1. 1.Inspiration Strikes

  2. 2.Sit down to write

  3. 3.Finish the story as initially planned.

  4. 4.Run Spell Check

  5. 5.Query

  6. 6.Sign contract with agent

  7. 7.Sign contract with publisher

  8. 8.Sign books at a well-attended personal appearance

  9. 9.Wave to Paparazzi at premier of movie based on book

  10. 10. Rinse and repeat

Not surprisingly, it doesn’t work like that.

In lieu of any real method to my madness, I’ll begin with inspiration: Where does it come from and how do I get some?

The answer I think you will get from most writers is, “I don’t know, and I wish I did.” In all honesty, it is a lot like that lightning strike cliche. For example, I was watching my son ride the toddler roller coaster at Menards one day when out of the blue, the entire plot for my current project Last Call came to me. I happened to be listening to my iPod at the time, and maybe it was something I heard--I’ll never be sure. What I am sure of is the fact that I carry a notebook in my purse and I promptly jotted down enough words that I’d remember what was in my head.

That’s the rare case. Often, I get a kernel of an idea from a song lyric, or from another story (real life or fiction). One of my bad habits is to try to predict the end of movies I watch. I’m frequently right, but when I’m not, it inevitably leads to my little brain churning over what would have happened if I had been right. That can be enough.

After that point, writing is a game of what if for me. I start writing and just keep asking myself, “What if...?” I usually know the general direction I’m headed, but there are a lot of questions to be answered in the middle.

So, I guess I don’t really have any suggestions on where to find your own inspiration. The only advice I do have is to carry a notebook with you. You never know when a character name, an eloquent turn of phrase, an image or an entire plot will hit you from out of the sky. And although my brain seems to have a limitless capacity for TV theme songs and song lyrics, the storage capacity for inspiration is finite and small. If I don’t get it down on paper, I’m likely to lose it.

If you’re curious about the inspiration for something I’ve written, feel free to drop me a message. Otherwise, until next time, I bid you adieu.

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