Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Writing From The Gut

I shared this post recently over at the Scribble Chicks blog, and I thought you all might like to read it too:

Most writers think about their stories and characters at all hours of the day. We'll be in the shower and a scene idea will pop into our head (and we'll scramble to write it down on the wall with a bar of soap). We'll be making dinner and a snappy line of dialogue will appear out of nowhere. This is especially true if you're brainstorming for ideas of what to write.

After I wrote my first novel Thicker than Blood, I really struggled with what to write next. Should I write a sequel or something new? I bought a little notebook at Barnes and Noble, called it my Novel Notebook, and started jotting down ideas. Early on in the book I made myself answer the question, "What I really want to write about is ____". I got the idea from James Scott Bell in his book Plot & Structure, and I figured if it worked for him, then I could give it a try.

Weeks passed. I kept writing in that idea book. I asked myself the question, "What I really want to write about is ____" again. I had an answer, but I still didn't know if it should be a book. I had so many different snippets of ideas, but I kept shooting them down. I was floundering and miserable.

But that's not really the point of this post. :) Fast forward several months, even a year. I eventually decided on an idea and started writing my second novel. Then one day I finished it and happened to go back to that original idea notebook just for fun. I discovered something that shocked me. Every one of those responses to the "What I really want to write about" question I had incorporated into the novel . . . unconsciously.

Or maybe not.

There often comes a point in our writing when we have enough information (even if it doesn't feel like it), and the breakthrough will come when we sit down and write. You know more than you think you know about your story. Why not try the unfettered approach today? Just write. Trust your instincts. I bet what you really want to write about will come through.


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi CJ -

This is how I write: from the gut. I mull over ideas in my head, and they eventually get on paper.

Thanks for the great article.

Susan :)

P.S. Hope you'll come visit my blog. I'm a Follower on your blog.

Robin Shope said...

Oh, CJ, you are so much like me! I carry around what I call 'my idea book' and it goes everywhere with me. For each book I write, I get a new notebook and write down hair color, length, eye color, personality, etc. to ensure I keep consistent.When a phrase pops into my head, there it goes into the idea book. And sometimes my characters are more real to me than those around me. Spooky, huh?

Hugs, Robin Jansen Shope

Rachel said...

Great post, as usual.

Koala Bear Writer said...

I like your question... as soon as I read it, one word popped into my head that is something that comes up in every novel I've written. Like you, I've struggled with the writing something new or rewriting something old. I've also seen things happen unconsciously in my writing. Or maybe our brains just work harder than we think they do. :)

The BEDBUG Blog said...

ain't it the truth. It seems we never stop writing--even when we aren't "writing" we are still working in our heads.

I find life offers so much material. Just going somewhere and jotting stuff down, makes for ideas that can be polished in future.

Patti Lacy said...

Great truth. Nike does know a thing or "do"


Karen Lange said...

Good stuff! Thanks for reinforcing what I've been thinking...:)

Faith Imagined said...

I almost never write anything down. I constructed a "book lexicon" in my brain, and all my thoughts go into there. I add to it whenever an idea comes, and I pray that I'll be able to recall it later.

Interestingly, though, my thoughts seem to come back to the surface and wiggle their way from my mind to the page when I'm writing. The brain is so intricate and smart! I'm glad I have one ;-)

Judith Briles said...

"What I really want to write about is ____" sounds a fun idea. I would try it too next time I find myself writing or in the mood to brainstorm on ideas.