This is something I have come to realize recently. I mean, really realize:
Writing is messy.
There’s simply no right way to do it. (There are, however, plenty of wrong ones: baking cookies, watching Dexter, and checking your email every seven minutes to see if Mr./Ms. Agent has finished reading your manuscript among them.)
You start with an idea. Probably a half-baked one, if even. We may be talking quarter or eighth or sixteenth-baked here.
The good (or stress-inducing, depending on your perspective) news is that you’ve got another fractionally-baked idea to pair it with. Yay! A salt and pepper set!
And then there are all those other little fragments of something rattling around in your head like broken filaments or a pick stuck inside a guitar. They want to be part of your story, too.
You shake all the pieces out, line them up on the carpet. Really, it’s a bit like emptying one of those $19.99 Everything jars from Goodwill onto the floor and looking at all the Legos and buttons and friendship beads and Canadian money and googly eyes and plastic dinosaurs and popsicle sticks with the jokes on them and stale candy and God knows what and saying, From this I shall build a DeLorean. A sane person would answer: You’re off your rocker and halfway to the moon.
But somehow you string the pieces together. Somehow your choking hazard avalanche of disparate ideas and disorder becomes an outline, then a draft, and then a novel. Give or take 3-300 revisions between.
How do you get from Chaos to finished product? It’s a mystery to me, and frankly some kind of miracle. But there are a few things that do seem to help:
- Time. Ideas need to steep. Suggestions need to sit. Parts need to come together. Most of which is outside the actual writing.
- Effort. Sometimes the only way to find the path that works is to try all the ones that don’t first. Multiply x 3,756 for all the individual challenges/creative problem-solving issues you might encounter in a single novel.
- Determination. Just keep showing up. And showing up. And showing up. You have to work and work some more until it’s done.
Those are the bases. Your ideas are the flavor.
What you make (and how) is up to you.