Every writer develops their own distinct process. I’ve found that my process is constantly evolving and changes with different stories that I may be working on. One thing that is constant is time writing response to prompts. I fill a notebook per month with these exercises and I’ve found that it really helps me get into new places with my work.
To outline or not to outline? Sometimes an outline is too restrictive to my writing, too rigid in laying out the expectations of events that little room is left for the surprise (and joy) of discovering something new about my characters, theme or plot. But sometimes I find myself drowning in a sea of non-linear vignettes and I must sit down and sort it out – draw up a time line, a character list, a bare bones outline that can be a guidepost to where I’ve been and where I want to go. If I skip this step I risk repeating myself, losing track of small, subplot details and creating a whole heap of work in the revision stage.
I am steadily making progress on the new novel and I have reached that point where I need to sort a few things out. For one thing, I’m less and less enamored with my working title RIDING THE BLIND. I love the idea – born in the blues music lyrics, the idea of riding the rails without a particular destination, but the focus of this work doesn’t feel as though it is moving in time with this overarching concept.
I recently incorporated some of the lyrics to an old, folk song titled “Wayfaring Stranger” into my work. I think this title has possibility. It immediately connects with the idea of a generation, of a mother, leaving her family — going missing for thirty years. Maybe something else will crop up, just around the bend in my writing.
I need to sort out the structure. How do I incorporate the present, 1980 and the late 1940s into the novel in a fluid way that continually engages the reader? My new critique group felt the opening prologue was less engaging than chapter one. I had originally intended to frame this work with the narrator in the present tense, dipping into the past and the story she wants to tell. That is the trouble. This story isn’t just about the past, it is about how the narrator feels about it in the context of the present.
I’ve been writing in longhand recently, nearly every piece of this new novel-in-progress has been born this way. I notice different things when I write this way, the rhythm is different.
Last night I had a writing date with a new writing friend. This was our second meeting at a local coffee shop. For two hours we both wrote and wrote, entirely engaged in the work. Each time we plan to meet I wonder how productive I will be, but each time I really break through on my story and churn out thousands of words. Perhaps there is something to getting out of your environment and setting aside that special time to write? Either way, I want to keep doing it. These meetings are now a helpful part of my process, and today I have that glow of confidence that I can keep working and finish this novel. As I am still in the middle of the querying process, this hopefulness is more valuable than I can really express.