Friday, July 30, 2010

Writing Rapidly with the Door Closed

Recently I purchased Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It was recommended to me as a writer’s resource keeper. Of the many gems of Mr. King’s writing wisdom, the nugget I’d like to ooh and aah over today is his confession of writing rapidly with the door shut.

What? Close out the fur-babies, the hubby, my Nickelback iTunes? And what about stopping to make those pesky corrections after I re-read the paragraph I just wrote? Oh, the horror!

Well, Mr. King is the master of horror novels.

So, I allowed his little tidbit to marinate in my shocked and awed mind.

Mr. King explains that he literally closes his door and writes as quickly as he can, transferring what’s in his brain into words exactly as they come to him. He doesn’t stop for corrections and only flip-flops back to check characters and essential back story. He focuses on the goal of finishing the story by writing fast enough to outrun self-doubt. Revisions eventually come, but not until the first draft is complete and adequate time has passed so that sink holes in the plot and stumbling blocks in character building become as apparent as a shimmery full moon in a cloudless, black velvet sky.

Suddenly, I got it. For months, I couldn’t get past the first few chapters of my current WIP because I kept stopping to revise and rework it. As a result, the story twisted tumultuously and kept changing. Mainly, because I became unsure of where I was going with it. Self-doubt mowed me down and kept riding over me each time I made a change. I thought I was working toward improvement when I was actually disassembling the foundation and scattering it to oblivion.

Although I’ve been writing since childhood, I’m a novice when it comes to the craft of writing for publication. Knowing this, I read how-to books, take online classes, and whatever else I can find to do to learn the techniques I need to develop for success. I have charts and outlines and character interviews and storyboards. None have worked to help me complete this WIP.

Mr. King talks about starting with a situation that organically develops into a story. He defines the difference between plot and story as “Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest.”

I found that when I returned to the basic inciting situation for my hero and heroine, their story began to naturally evolve. Twists and turns and reveals are occurring that I never imagined when trying to systematically structure the storyline. I also found the writing is easier and faster than when I was struggling to make the jig-sawed plot pieces fit together. With resounding clarity, and a sliver of guilt, I accepted that formal plotting doesn't work for me.

Now, my mission is to write hard, write fast and let self-doubt choke on the dust my fingers leave behind while I'm tapping out that first draft. Do I expect it to be a masterpiece? Not in any lucid reality, but that’s okay. Ernest Hemingway said “The first draft of anything is sh**!” So, I’m in good company.
Reposted from New Kids on the Writer's Block

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Renee said...

July 29, 2010 12:20 AM
King is so right! I tell people all the time you can't revise a blank page. I know when I get caught up in plot it makes me want to hide my head in a rotted tree stump.

I'm all for sitting butt in chair and write whatever comes to mind. One of these days I'll have myself an office where I can shut the door on all distractions.

Awesome post!

Rebecca Lynn said...

This is a great reminder! I read "On Writing" so long ago, I need to pick it up again.

Being at conference, I haven't done any writing in quite awhile, but I need to get back after it. Definitely.
July 29, 2010 7:06 AM

Julie Shumway said...

I love King's book. It gives us unpublished writers hope that we will one day fulfill our dreams of publication.

My writing is like a train ride. I know where I get on the train and where I get off the train. I also have an idea of who my traveling partners are and a couple of the major stops I want to make. Then I keep my eye out for the unexpected side trips as I travel.

Since I write long hand, I type my first draft into the computer staying as true to the original as possible,only tweaking minor grammar, spelling and sentence structure as I type. After that my first draft sits a while before revisions.

Renee, I have an office with a door I can shut, but after the age of 2 they all figure out how to work the door knob.

Great post!

July 29, 2010 7:12 AM

Laurie said...

On Writing is my favorite writing book, especially the audio version read by the author. It's packed with humor, advice, and inspiration, and it makes sense to me.

Great post!
July 30, 2010 12:00 PM

Lynn said...

Lynn said...

I'm also on the King bandwagon. I loved this book when it first came out ten (seriously?) years ago.

I've been knee deep in nationals but am sitting in Alabama waiting for the second half of my trip home. Trying to catch up.

I know when my hubby tries to talk to me while I'm writing it just kills me...

August 1, 2010 9:52 AM

Chudney Thomas said...

So true Kristal. My first Draft is often fast and dirty and Mr. Hemingway was right, S@$#.

Sue Tomlinson Baldridge said...

Great article, Kristal. Very sound advice from a master writer! Stephen King is one of the best!

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