I’ve written a lot of short stories and a number of novels and I’ve done them all the same way. I start at the beginning and write through to the end and then I realize that the ending completely changes everything. So I go back to the beginning and revise everything and get to the end and realize it changes everything and so on. With my first novel I did that about 40 times. Literally.
Since then I’ve become a little more efficient, but I’ve always liked the idea of hurling myself forward and not knowing where I’m going. I think that transfers some of my energy into my writing. It’s similar to swimming across a river, I think; when you reach the halfway point (or page 120), you know you don’t want to drown so you have no choice but to push forward. (Or you could turn around, but then you wind up spending a lot of time on the first chapter.)
Recently, though, I started doing something completely different.
In January I began taking an on-line mystery writing class at Gotham, which I am enjoying tremendously. The teacher, Michael Kurland, gives us writing assignments every week, which means that every week I write one scene. But the scenes are not necessarily consecutive and it’s fun to be able to plunge into a situation and not have to worry how you got there or how you’re going to get out of it. All I have to do is think about how to make the scene itself as effective as possible. (It’s also fun to imagine murdering various people and although I’m not a hostile person, I’m finding it very therapeutic.)
Once the class is done, I should have a pile of ten scenes and, theoretically anyway, I should be able to connect them into something interesting. I hope. To go back to my swimming across the river analogy—it’s like finding out there are islands in the river and you can stop and rest for a bit.
I don’t know if this is going to help my writing or not, but I like the idea of shaking myself up. It’s always good to try something new. How about you? What’s your process?