Back to the Pure Fun of Writing a Novel

I am back to working on my novel, one scene at a time. This has been an off and on process for the past couple of years, but now I am regularly putting pen to paper (yes, handwritten) and am moving forward.

I have determined that handwriting my first draft produces a deeper, slower look into the world that I am creating. I think that since I type so much faster than I hand-write, those extra milliseconds while I am shaping letters on the page gives my mind time to consider more options for the scene. Should the character stop here or there, do this or that, think one thought or yet another? I have time to consider those choices while my hand makes those marks on the page.

I might also be a bit less judgmental of my work when it’s handwritten. It’s still a draft, I say to myself. It has no business being anywhere near finished or complete. This helps me to not go into revision-overkill, but rather do what I need to do in first draft: proceed with the story. There’s plenty of time post first draft for me to go back and add to a scene, coloring in the details. Right now I need to determine if the character is moving in the direction he/she needs to go. That carefully rewritten scene may never even make it into the book, after all. Particularly since I am still exploring where the plot and the characters are taking me.

I am not a plot-driven writer, but rather am more interested in my characters and their challenges. I am also not an outliner, but rather what some people call a “seat-of-the-pantser.” Someone who builds a story line by line and sees how it all works out. I write to entertain myself and so knowing what’s going to happen before I watch it all unfold feels boring to me. I want to stay open and see where the characters go.

There are pros and cons to this type of approach. The pro is that the plot can be unexpected and therefore more interesting and the characters can have more time to explore their motivations. The cons are that it’s easy to get distracted by subplots and you also have to make sure you don’t veer into melodrama. Of course, melodrama is also a pitfall of an outline approach. The most dramatic scene is not always the best scene, particularly if it wanders over into that well trodden road called “hackneyed.”

The good news is that I am having fun with this draft. I am doing all sorts of stuff I’ve never tried before, one of which is to have the story told from the points-of-view of several different characters. That’s been fun. Also, to use several characters that I’ve wanted to use just because they have been hovering in the back of my mind, ready to be part of a story. Why not? Also, this is the story of two mothers and two daughters who do not see eye to eye on anything and who have to figure out how to make their peace with one another while dealing with dangerous people in an unfamiliar place. I find that concept intriguing. It is also a racial story, which has its own value for me personally. In addition, it’s a love story, with a love that transcends time and place, a concept that makes my own heart go pitter-patter.

However, there is nothing fast about this draft. One baby step at a time. I guess even with baby steps, it’s not too long before there’s something to show for your time. Besides, there are always the natural benefits of writing for fun: passion, a sense of satisfaction and pure, unadulterated love of the written word.

I hope to write a bit more tomorrow on this story that is starting to tug hard at me.

Good night, friends. We’ll see each other tomorrow if these fierce Santa Ana winds don’t blow us all away.


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