Hi. 🙂 I’ve been thinking. Hahaha.
Specifically, I’ve been thinking about my writing process and how to improve it. When I think about the stories that I love the most, the ones I’ve written, they have a couple of interesting things in common.
First, I didn’t overthink the minor details. Or the plot. Or even character arcs. I had the main things in place. The main characters, the main plot, the beginning and ending, and some points along the way. I had moments of doubt, of course, that I conveniently and unfortunately keep forgetting about. But the fact of the matter is, I didn’t think too much about what I was doing. I organized what I needed to organize to keep me from tripping over myself, and then I started writing.
It’s like, I need to plan enough to keep myself from going off the rails, but not so much that I start overthinking everything I’m doing.
Happily, there is something I can do to minimize the overthinking, and it has nothing to do with how long I brainstorm, how long I’ve had the idea, or how many notes I take.
I need two things: a plot I’m not tripping over and a story I’m super duper excited about.
I realized earlier this year that when I write, I want the story to “feel” a certain kind of way. It’s a bit difficult to figure out what that specific feeling I’m after is, but I have a much more difficult time not being literal about it.
Once upon a time I wrote a story, and though I couldn’t really articulate it at the time, I wanted that feeling I get when I’m up really high and I look over the railing and realize how small and mortal I am. It’s a very specific kind of terror, but somehow the story had that from page one. The character isn’t up high in chapter one, but she’s anxious and nervous because she knows she’s about to do something dangerous. And stupid.
I don’t have a word for that. But I can describe it. And that’s all that matters.
In our second example, I wanted something magical and beautiful and dark, like sitting in a dim room, on a balcony, and down on the stage below someone is playing heartbreakingly gorgeous violin or cello or harp music under a blue spotlight, and it’s transportive and makes me feel like I’m in another world. And again, I had that on page one.
Lately, I’ve been trying to capture the feeling I would have if I was in a dark room, alone and anxious, afraid that something might brush up against me or touch me, and I wouldn’t know what it is because it’s dark!
Taken literally, I end up with a story where that unseen thing is a ghost or something, but by limiting my focus to just two previous stories, I could see that it’s not a specific thing that’s causing the feeling. I don’t literally need a character looking over a cliff and into a canyon. I can do that, of course, and I probably will as a side effect, but what I’m after isn’t the physical act of a being a dark room “alone”; it’s the rush of fear that comes with it.
That disturbing, unsettling feeling of the unknown. That’s what I’ve been wanting. Of something not being right, but you don’t know what it is.
Luckily I don’t need to explain how I’m feeling in detail in order to settle on an idea. Something general like, “I want to be swept away” or “I want to be disturbed” is a great place to start. I just need to know that it’s not a specific disturbing thing, like a ghost or monster or psychopath. It’s the FEELING that these things provoke in the dark. If I don’t understand that it’s the feeling I’m after, I end up limiting to myself to only ideas that have ghosts or creatures in them, which increases the likelihood that I’ll overlook the story that actually has that disturbing energy I want.
This matters to me, because anything outside of this energy field is going to lead me down a path of frustration and stress that will ultimately end with me either quitting, ruining the story, or just being generally unsatisfied with my work in an almost nonsensical kind of way.
The reason I’ve been thinking about this is because I write the best stories when I’m in the zone like this, but I can’t keep waiting for it to happen by accident. I need to understand what I’m doing so I can do it on purpose and write something I’m in love with ALL the time. I can’t replicate accidents.
It’s a very addicting kind of adrenaline rush to find a story that completely sweeps you up. And like I said in a post earlier this year, I’m not settling anymore. Hence the analyzing. 🙂
I can’t get very much writing done while I’m packing, so I’m thinking a lot instead. ^_^