I have been going back through my files (mostly from Writer’s Magazine) and rereading Robert Owen Butler, From Where You Dream in preparation for NaNoWriMo. Here is what I have found:
- I will write first thing in the morning for two hours, before I am bombarded with all the words, other’s words, life’s everyday stuff, while I am still partially in the dream state, so I can more easily get to that intuitive place of true emotion and imagination.
- Write every day.
- Be fearless.
- Some beginnings: a line (poems, billboards, conversation you hear), a list (Who is making it? Why?), a title (Does it suggest a theme? Character? Place?), a character, a situation (Is it troubling? Does it make you wonder?), an event, an image, a subject (a drought, a flood, grade school), an oddity.
- Get unstuck: Write a scene where the character enters a new place. Bring in a minor character. Write a monologue for a character you would like to know more about. You don’t have to write in order of your story. Write a group of crucial scenes.
- More getting unstuck: Free-write on an emotion, a character, a place. Free associate on a word, a character’s name, a place. Write a list of possible character choices in a particular situation. Why that choice? Have another character make a declarative statement about your main character – does it surprise you? There is less chance of getting stuck if you write every day.
- Trust in the writing process. The first draft is exploration and discovery. It is an adventurous journey you begin not knowing where you will end up. I read this by John Dufresne, and got even more excited:
- “You have nothing to prove in the first draft, nothing to defend, everything to imagine. . . . You write the draft in order to read what you have written and to determine what you still have to say. . . . You may have a destination in mind, and you may well set off in that direction, but what you encounter along the way will likely alter your course. This uncertainty, though daunting, is crucial to the writing process. It allows for, even encourages, revelation and surprise, while it prevents the manipulation of character or plot to suit a preconceived, and usually ill-conceived, notion of what the story must be. In writing the first draft, you begin to work through all the uncertainty and advance toward meaning.”
- You may remove words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters in the second draft, but nothing is ever wasted.
The purpose of the first draft is not to get it right, but to get it written. John Dufresne wrote that, and he has completed two story collections, three novels and a book on fiction writing. www.johndufresne.com.
Have fun on your journey, everyone. I plan to have fun on mine.