On Coming to a Crossroads

I.

The whole A Year of Living Bloggily experiment was an attempt to figure out what purpose (or what porpoise) a blog served in my writing life.  I hoped that writing a blog a day for a year would somehow solidify in my mind what the hell I was doing or wanted to do or meant to do with this literary venue.

Apparently, that didn’t work.

Trouble is, as soon as the year was over I took the energy I was funneling into writing the blog and threw it into my actual writing.  I started a novel.  I wrote a play.  I’ve been writing a poem and a story every week.  This leaves little time for blogging.

Well, that’s not true.  I still have the time, but I don’t have the mental energy.  Only so much of my time during the day can be spent skewering words onto sentences.  Eventually, my brain drops out of my skull and skulks in the corner like my cat Jeoffrey does when company comes over.  I can force her to come out, but I can’t force her to socialize, just like, after a certain point, I can’t force my brain to create.

There’s one way I can keep this blog going, and that’s by just letting go of all preconceptions.  Instead of trying to make it something emblematic of me as a writer or an advertising tool or, to be frank, anything that has a purpose, I just need to let it be what it wants.

My mind fingerpaints, and I post the pictures up for the world to see.

II.

I don’t plan my novels out before I write them.

That almost makes it sound like I plan some of my writing, and that novels are an exception, but, no, I don’t plan any of my writing at all.  I start writing from a point and the narrative and the images spin out from there, twisted into shape by centrifugal force.  All of what I write ends up orbiting a single plot, theme, or idea, though I only know what is being circled once I’ve written out the specifics of most of the satellites.

Okay, now that the confusing analogy re: my writing is out of the way, here’s where the crossroads comes in.

See, because I don’t plot my novels out beforehand, I don’t exactly know what’s going to happen or, if I have an idea for a specific scene, I won’t know exactly when the scene will happen.  I’ll know relationships, like I might want a scene to happen directly before another scene, but even that can be thrown up in the air by the specifics of what I’m writing at the moment.

Megan has pointed out that this way of writing causes me a lot of stress.  If I had everything planned out, then I’d only have to worry about fleshing out the bare bones of the narrative.  Of course, I might also have to revise the entire skeleton if I found out something wasn’t going to work (a problem I’ve yet to encounter in my non-plotting unplanning way of writing).

But the stress.  Like that I’m feeling now, which is why I’m writing this blog post instead of beginning my writing for the day.  The problem is that there are two possible ways of getting from the point I’m at now to the next major plot development.  I’m leaning now towards the direction I just came up with a few days ago, but it means Joseph is going to encounter something which I’d imagined he wouldn’t, in the other possible path, until the end of the book.

This came up a few days ago, too, when I couldn’t decide whether Joseph and Cindy and Michiko and the pickers should head straight back through the labyrinth (through rooms they’d visited before) or explore something new (by chance, not by choice, of course).

The truth about this sort of crossroads is that, really, it doesn’t matter which direction I pick.  The crossroads is just an attempt at my brain to stall me, for my doubts to waylay me into the inn at the crossroads and feed me drink after drink until I pass out from fear and exhaustion.

The truth about writing is that as long as you keep writing, everything will be okay.

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4 Responses to On Coming to a Crossroads

  1. Frank says:

    Keep writing!

  2. Andrew says:

    Oh, no doubt about that. 🙂

    Of course, I still need to get on my real writing for the day… Okay, Frank. I’ll do it. I’ll do it for you!

    (p.s. thanks for the encouragement)

  3. Sean Wills says:

    I’ve had these moments a lot with my current WIP. ‘Just keep going’ is good advice, as long as you keep in mind that you might have to scrap 40k words of going and then go in a different direction. (Not that I’m speaking from experience here, mind you.)

    Oh, and I know what I’m going to write for that short story thing you e-mailed me about! I haven’t forgotten it, I’m just waiting for the idea to grow a bit. I think it’s going to be fun.

  4. Andrew says:

    I look forward to the story. Also, if you have a chance to look at THE DREAM THIEF (I sent it to you, right?), I wouldn’t be averse to your thoughts.

    As for the crossroads, it’s true that I might have to scrap. But I’m going forward in blind faith since I’ve yet to experience that (though I’m keeping your testimony in mind). But for all you writer/readers out there, take Sean’s warning to heart!

    (Or you could take his warning as advice. What do you really have to lose by scrapping and/or rewriting the beginning of your novel? You know, except time.)

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