Thursday, May 2, 2013

How do YOU write?

A friend from work asked me the other day, "How do you write?" 

"Um," I said, while a range of words raced through my head: Sporadically. Chaotically. Desperately. 

"I mean, how do you go from an idea to a book. Does it play like a movie in you head?" 

What an awesome idea. There's a movie fully-formed -- edited, beautifully framed shots, a soundtrack and everything -- in my head, and all I have to do is transcribe it. That sounds like Muse-territory to me, and I don't think I have a Muse. And as much as I love the idea that I'm just a conduit in this process, like an angel  has descended from heaven and ordered me to take down its holy words (and why can't angels write their own stuff down? What if I've got herds to tend or fish to catch, or a sandal emporium to run?), it just isn't true. 

Not for me, at least. I build from the ground up. 

"Well, I start with a vague idea," I told her. "Maybe for a plot, maybe for a character, or maybe just a scene, and I build it from there." 

I write like I have a floor full of Lego. 

I have a vague idea what I want to make, and I have all the blocks to do it, but I've lost the instructions. 

So I put a few pieces together and see what I have. 

And then I rip it apart and start again. 

Over and over again. 

Building it and tearing it down, and building it up again. 

Until I've got something I like, something that is bigger than the sum of its parts. Something that might even be so different from that first vague idea that even I don't quite know how I got there. Hopefully something wonderful.  

Only then, when I'm finished, do I get to sit back and see the big picture. Only then does that movie start playing in my head. And only then do I know if I like it or not. 

How about you? 


  1. That's actually very much how I do it, except I use Tinkertoys.

    1. Tinkertoys? Pft! Lego is the only way to go!

  2. That sounds like a very apt metaphor, at least for how I write. Usually it's something small, and it kind of snowballs on me until it's a complete book. But it's also very mix and match, to see what works and makes the finished product look nice.

    1. We pantsers have so much more fun than the plotters, I think!

  3. AWEsomesauce! I love Lego, and this is SUCH a good metaphor for how I write (and how I play with Lego)!

    I've always characterized my painful process as making a sculpture using a tiny little hammer, but I like your description better. :)

    Marian Allen
    Story A Day May 2013 Day 4

    1. Thanks Marian! And now, instead of writing, I want to go to my nephew's house and steal his Lego.

  4. That is very similar to how I write, build it up, tear it down again, build up, tear down until I put the pieces together finally in a way I like. Very well said.

    1. Thanks, J! I've come to the realisation that I will never be organised enough to work with the instructions :)



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