It’s confession time: Whenever I don’t know what to do with a new idea or am scared to start working, I procrastinate by reading a book about the craft of writing. I like to call it “Productive procrastination.” I’m leaning something that can help me grow as a writer while simultaneously avoiding my current project. As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m reading a new book. This time, it’s “The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction.”
Talking (or in this case, writing) about the concepts I encounter helps me solidify the knowledge, so I’ve decided to blog about some of the lessons in the book – maybe you’ll get something out of it too. Today, I’ll discuss the very first section appropriately named “Beginnings.”
Writing and planning
Stephen Koch, the author, argues that when you have a new idea, you should just go. Quit thinking about it, stop trying to perfect it, just write. That’s a hard thing for me in some ways because I like planning. I’m the kind of person who thinks before she speaks and plots before she writes. However, I do see the value in just going for it. I did do this a little bit by writing in the perspective of two of the main characters, just the see what they’re like. So far, I’ve discovered a few of their traits, but I have a long way to go.
After writing for a bit I decided to go to the drawing board. I created this document of notes containing possible synopsis and character descriptions. I’m a little stuck on plot points, but the rest was easy enough.
“While I’m sure you can think of good reasons to procrastinate, I very much doubt there’s much real merit in any of them,” says Koch.
So true! But so hard!
Elusive and abundant inspiration
“Beginnings” goes on to discuss inspiration. Koch argues that it’s important to begin writing, whether or not you know where the story is headed, simply to find the tale. There’s some amount of inspiration in you, otherwise you wouldn’t have the idea in the first place! Write now so you can explore and nurture the idea. As you do that, you’ll get to know the story and then you can go back and polish it.
Similarly (and yet not), Koch asserts that you don’t need to be in the moment to write. You’re writing can be just as good when you don’t feel like doing it as when you’re swept away by the story. Inspiration can come from the actual process.
The idea I’m coaxing right now came from several places: “The Banner Saga” and a dream. I’ve been gathering more motivating images over the past few weeks. For example, there are two gothic-style churches near my apartment that I pass almost every day. I feel like the castles in my story should look like that. I can imagine the characters moving in and out of the buildings, so I’d say that’s as good of inspiration as any.