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I'm reading the book Ron Carlson Writes a Story right now. He talks about a lot of things that really speak to me, things I need to remember when I am writing or maybe more importantly, when I am not writing. One of them I want to share.

You can't think your way through a story.

You start off thinking about what you want to write and you get a general idea and then you start to write.

It's that simple.

It's that hard.

You can outline and pre-plot and do your index cards of scenes and chart high points and mid points and black moments. But then you need to put it all aside and just write. Through-out the book you start and stop to think and then start again but you can't think it all the way through all at once. You shouldn't try. Because it is the process of writing the story that brings the story to you, to life. There are things you can't think about until you see the story unfold as you write.

But it's one of those things you have to take on faith. I need to remember that.

Example. The other day on Twitter I threw out one of my favorite writing exercise questions - what does your main character have in his pocket? And I thought about my main character and the scene I was working on. I knew he had a wallet that wasn't his but one thing wasn't enough. Because I had been reading Carlson's book I just threw in a couple of things, the first things that came to mind, a pack of gum and a parking ticket. Now I have never had a parking ticket in my life and I have no idea where that parking ticket came from but I just plugged it into my Twitter update, hit send and went out into the yard to work in the garden and think for a little while about those things in his pocket. Then I got busy cutting back the dogwoods and collecting seeds and pretty soon I wasn't thinking about the character anymore at all.

After a few hours in the garden I came inside and went back to my WIP. My character had to go someplace but I didn't know where he was going to go first. I didn't know how to figure out where to start. So I looked at that parking ticket and there was a city and a state on it. And that's where I went. I don't know what's going to happen when I get there and that's okay.

I'm going to trust the process will get me where I need to go.

(Tags: )
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 12 comments — Leave comment )
May 25th, 2009 05:35 pm (UTC)
Because it is the process of writing the story that brings the story to you, to life. There are things you can't think about until you see the story unfold as you write.

This is *so* true!
May 26th, 2009 05:29 am (UTC)
And it always amazes me that when I do let go, things happen like the parking ticket/.
May 25th, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC)
lately I've been thinking that I have to have the whole story planned out. Thanks for reminding me it's the things that come to us unexpectedly that make the story exciting and fun. Finding out what is going on as we are doing it, makes it come alive. As long as you don't just go in circles doing it....
May 26th, 2009 05:30 am (UTC)
I was trying to convince myself that I needed to have it all planned out too but once I let go of that idea, things started to happen in this book and in another one. In my current verse novel WIP I just wrote as many poems as I could about a particular character and then went back to see what linked them up and what do you know, there was a story in there.
(Deleted comment)
May 26th, 2009 05:31 am (UTC)
Thanks! I love those kind of surprises too.
(Deleted comment)
May 26th, 2009 05:33 am (UTC)
Yes, staying in the room is another really important one for me. I give in way too much to go to the kitchen, to go check on the dog, to go do anything when I don't know what to write next.
May 25th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
Hearing you and Kerry talk about this book... I've got to reread it.

And, per your comment to me on line breaks, I'm keeping my eyes open on anything I come across with what seems like good advice!
May 26th, 2009 05:37 am (UTC)
It's a great book, a little skinny one, and there are so many gems on every page. I am making myself read it slowly which is really hard for me, but I want to absorb it all.

Thanks for keeping an eye out for me.
May 26th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC)
This was so helpful to me, thank you!! : )
May 26th, 2009 05:36 am (UTC)
You're welcome. It's a great book filled with very good advice. Skinny book.
May 27th, 2009 09:34 am (UTC)
"I'm going to trust the process will get me where I need to go."

Isn't it strange, how often we need to be reminded of our own ability to make it to the end of a project? Perhaps there's not the flourish we'd like or the celebration with happy friends and a chocolate cake made by the weird neighbor lady who always carries an umbrella. But we finish. We have the tools.

I keep forgetting, as I spend my days face-pressed against blocks of stone, that once the last stone is placed I'll step away to view my pyramid.

It'll probably be pretty lop-sided. =)

Seth Simonds
June 1st, 2009 05:50 am (UTC)
Indeed, we need to be reminded that all we need in order to achieve our dreams is right there with us all the time. Thanks for popping by, Seth.
( 12 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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