Sunday, October 21, 2007

Reinventing the Wheel

I have a confession. With each new project, my structured thought process invents another way to organize my plot. Sure, I attend workshop after workshop, listen to tapes, read plotting books. I've tried almost all of them. Post-its, white boards, spiral-bound bibles, three-ring binders, loose index cards. I suppose some strange part of me--the same part that wants to yell "Squeee" in the Container Store--loves finding new ways to compartmentalize the vast amount of information required to write a novel.

Maybe each attempt at writing requires a different approach. Certainly Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a flowing, literary piece like Eat, Pray and Love from an entirely different structural place than novelist Stephen King wrote Lisey's Story, although I suspect the more notches on your publishing pencil, the more intuitive the entire process becomes. But each story has its own power and emphasis. To find that place of understanding and authority, it requires the author to root around a bit and follow a path not taken before.

Most writers are superstitious. They have their "lucky outfit" to wear to pitch sessions, turn their workspace a certain cardinal direction because career-boosting fortune happened in that space and surround themselves with ritual mugs and baubles like seniors at a bingo hall. Maybe when they sold to New York, they locked into what worked and held onto it, afraid to change for fear the magical dust of publication may not return.

For now, I reinvent the wheel until I understand more about the story than I do my own drive to write. I'm just thankful my left-brain doesn't control my passion to return to the story each day.

1 comment:

Marilyn Brant said...

I have a "lucky" quarter that I keep at my writing desk. There's nothing actually magical about it, except that my 8-year-old son gave it to me and he collects American coins. He told me it'd bring me good luck...

Mostly, though, it reminds me of him and the sweetness of his faith in me (so I guess that does make it kind of lucky :).