Saturday, September 26, 2009

Writing Forward

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I attended the September meeting of the James River Writers and wanted to pass along some of the insights and information I garnered there. The writers’ group held their usual speaker panel which included three published fiction authors, Ms. Carolyn Parkhurst, (The Dogs of Babel, Lost and Found),Ms. Leslie Pietrzyk, (Pears on a Willow Tree, A Year and a Day), and Ms. Susann Cokal, (Mirabilis, Breath and Bones.)

One interesting recommendation that came to light I had instinctively followed, but hadn’t quite put into words. The idea was to Write Forward. All three speakers agreed great books are often allowed to develop this way. Basically, it means to give your story permission to write itself – allow the story to be part of the process.

As I recall, each writer went into a project with nothing more than a rough idea of how the story might develop and with little more than a basic concept of the ending. They typically had little more than an idea of the characters they would create, a rudimentary central theme they wished developed and a sense of the ending. With this, they would begin writing and see how their imaginations would allow the story to develop.

They didn’t have each and every chapter outlined, there were no storyboards or index cards taped to the wall in chronological order, there was nothing of that ilk. They sat down, started writing and waited for that wondrous muse we call “Story” to fly from their fingertips and onto their computer screens - almost by itself.

An example Ms. Parkhurst gave was a sugar bowl with a note in it. She had no idea of where or how the crockery would come into play, she simply felt it belonged in the story. As with the concept of Writing Forward, it found its way into the storyline of its own accord.

Personally, I do about the same, though I usually have only one character in mind. I think I know how the story is going to end and I start with little else. By the time I get to “The End”, the character is still there, but the ending has morphed into something much better than I’d imagined when I started. As I write, I “feel” where I have to go and then figure out how to get there. A recent example in my new novel, “Born to be Brothers” is a pocket watch. The story is set in the mid-nineteenth century when pocket watches were the norm. I understand how men feel their individual timepieces are a representation of themselves and knew I needed a watch to help fill in the story. So, as the story fell onto the page, I kept the watch in the back of my mind. When it needed to show up, it did. And when it did, it changed the entire story.

So, when you sit down to write, many writers find it useful not to have the story too complete from the start. Allow your creativity to write your story, and don’t be afraid to let loose of the intuition within you. I’ll bet your writing will be a better for it.

Until we post again, good writing.


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