On Talking About Writing

If you met most of my writer friends, you would be struck by how much they love writing, and how much they love to talk about what they’re working on.  They’ll fill you in on the background to their world, tell you about their characters, and update you on the plot of their latest novel.

But me?  Not so much.

I love writing (obviously), but I don’t really talk about my books.  If asked, I give answers that are as vague as possible and then try to change the subjects.  It’s not that I don’t love my works (I do).  It has much more to do with the way I write.

I’m not a plotter, by any stretch of the imagination.  I like to have an idea of the world that I’m in, a better grasp on who the important characters are in the beginning, and an opening scene.  However, I have no idea where the story is going, except for forward (at least usually) because I discover it as I go along.  It’s like unearthing a fossil – I dig it up bone by bone (scene by scene) without realizing what it’s a fossil of.

I don’t know if that’s the cause or the effect, but I believe that I can only tell each story once.  I can clean up that telling, and reshape it, and I can summarize it once it is finished, but when I am writing, I move from scene to scene with little idea of what happens later on.  I am in the moment at the tail end of however much story that I have written, and if I move my mind’s eye away from that I can lose my direction.  The story can start to feel stale, or even wrong, after I’ve explained what happened three chapters ago, because that’s not where my mind is.  I lose the internal arcs and feel for character development, because I suddenly have disparate parts of the story in my mind’s eye at once.

Strange, I know.

I also have trouble describing things because they tend to shift on me.  The story that I sit down and start writing is not the same one that I finish, and sometimes by a lot.  I discover other worlds, the actual villain, or even switch genres when I realize the shape that the story is taking.

After all, the book is the boss.

I’ll be curious to see if this pattern holds in editing.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it likely will not.  When writing, I’m moving along with the story; I’m fully in it, watching it unfold as much as I’m helping it along.  On editing, I’m trying to be outside of it, and will be working far more intentionally.  I guess the difference is that I am trying to reshape something that is already fully formed (even if not correctly) rather than to try to reshape something that I am still shaping.

So, if you ever ask me what I’m writing about, and it’s a first draft, don’t be offended or feel that I’m not that into my story when I don’t give you details (even sketchy ones) of what is going on.  I have my reasons.

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