The temperature was near 100 degrees today on the way home from work so I was drifting off to sleep on the train. In this half-awake/half-asleep state I pondered the paths I take when I write.
First off, writing non-fiction and fiction are very different and I approach them equally differently. Non-fiction is a matter of having a list of facts I need to include and working my way through a narrative that covers them all. It’s more mechanical and requires little thought if after the research is all done. Fiction writing is much more nebulous, kind of like my interest in baseball.
I am not a baseball fan but any stretch of the imagination. I quickly get bored watching a game. I have been to two Colorado Rockies games in my life and both were part of a company-sponsored outing, so I was part of a big group, and mostly for the free beer. I could not even tell you now who we played nor who won, but I went to the games and let the crowd I was with lead me along through all the details like getting to the stadium, getting in, finding seats, etc. I write much the same way.
With both novels I have written so far (I’m in the 9th inning of #2 right now), I have started with some vague notion of the time periods I wanted to write about, the ultimate goal where the series is going, and who the main character was (it’s different in each book of the series). From there, I just start writing and see where the story takes me. Where I am at this moment is a place I had no plan to visit, but the story lead me there. With this book, I already knew the time and place of the climax (give to take a couple of years), but getting there has been as entertaining for me as I hope it will be for the reader.
By “making it up as I go,” I have met some of the most interesting people in my own pages. These are people I had not planned on, but they suddenly showed up. The most recent of these was a very minor character from book 1. I now know he is actually going to have a very big role in the final chapters of book 2.
So, for those of you who have suffered through the writing classes where the instructor insisted on outlines, synopses, etc. before you even started telling the story, take heart. We don’t all work that way.
Some of us just go to game for the beer, and find our own adventure when we get there.