Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Joys of Writing SOTP

Except on very rare days of structure, I'm a SOTP (seat-of-the-pants) writer. As I finish up my second novel I'm starting to learn that about myself. I used to bemoan this fact. I wanted to write with an outline. I wanted to have everything planned out in advance. But the more I've written fiction, the more I'm realizing that's not where my best writing comes from.

Case in point. I am nearing the home stretch in completing my second novel (working title is Innocent Blood). I'd been working on this one scene for days. I knew it had to be a powerful scene full of emotional depth. It was sort of the crux of the story. So of course I was working it to death. By this time I'd edited it so that the writing wasn't terrible, but I knew there was something missing. This is prone to happen for me when I try too hard. I knew I wasn't tapping into the depth of the emotional experience I needed. So what did I do?

Well, I prayed. I asked God to show me what to do. That's another thing I'm learning---tap into the amazing resource I have as a Christian writer, the author of the universe's advice. Why I didn't think of this earlier is beyond me and for another post! :)

It wasn't like a flash came from the clouds and a booming voice told me what to do. But you know how God speaks to us the most? Through that still small voice that sounds so much like our own. The reason for this, I believe, is because God speaks to us through our spirits so of course it's going to sound like us. It's coming from inside us.

Anyway, the impression I was getting was that I needed to re-write the scene from scratch. Just scrap what I had before and start over. Not an easy thing to do when you've spent the last week working on a scene. But I had a knowing it was what was needed. So I started in.

And something amazing happened.

This is where the joys of SOTP writing come in. I was typing away, working on this interchange between two characters and all of the sudden an idea came to me. This time it really did feel like a flash of inspiration. It was almost like I was watching a movie and an amazing twist happened that made me sit up straight and go, "No way!"

I think I'm about to reveal something else about writers. So, non-writers take notice. Ready?

Writers are a little crazy. There. I said it. And sometimes our characters take over our stories, behaving in ways we can't foresee.

My character revealed something in this scene I never saw coming. I know, I know, I'm the author. I should know when these things are going to happen. But I'm telling you, I never saw this one coming. My character said something in this scene I never would've thought of if I hadn't re-written it (Gee, you think God might've had a clue about this?). I never would've thought of it if I'd been sticking strictly to an outline.

Needless to say, I was really excited that night after my writing session. The big reveal of this character was exactly what that scene needed, and it brought a depth to her character I knew was there but didn't know why. It made all her previous actions more understandable, and connected her to the other character in a way that was simply beautiful, if I do say so myself.

So writers, have you ever had this happen in your writing? Readers, have you ever read a scene in a book that slapped you upside the head but made perfect sense in the whole scheme of things? I'd love to hear about it.

This week's CFBA blog tour is for Virginia Smith's Bluegrass Peril.

I read Virginia's novel Just As I Am, and this lady is a great writer.

1 comment:

Nicole said...

You have personified what it means to be a writer. Characters take over and do amazing things--after all, it is their lives, right?

This doesn't only happen to Christian writers, but for us the inspiration comes from the One we try to honor. For those outside the faith, the talent is given from the same One, but the inspiration might come from anywhere.

I've sat back in awe when this has happened to me--I never could've come up with it. It's too good, too profound, too just right. Thank you, Jesus. It's a thrill.