Thursday, March 4, 2010

Figuring it out - Writing as a Journey

With the bulk of the work on my next novel behind me, I'm looking up from my computer screen, stretching, and reflecting on the experience I've come through writing Time and Time Again.

I was talking to my fab-o editor, Nicci Jordan Hubert (otherwise known as the best editor a fiction writer could hope for), and I told her that this novel felt as if it has been ripped from my spinal cord. Writing it was a personal journey of creative self-discovery. I literally learned as I wrote - sometimes creating prose I was proud of, other times. . . not so much. In the end, it came together into a novel I'm proud to have written and excited to share with readers. And as difficult as the process was, I wouldn't change a single thing about it.

Being published doesn't mean you've figured everything out. In fact, I've learned that being on the happy side of published simply means you are presented with a new, previously unknown, learning curve. Every part of my journey has been about me figuring it out.

As I reflect on writing Time and Time Again, I have discovered some wonderful things about myself. The biggest discovery is how much I've yet to learn. I'm not daunted by the fact that I've so much ahead of me to learn. I've become comfortable enjoying the process. I wanted to share with you some of the things I've learned in hopes that some of them might help you as you're figuring it out as well.

1. Creative thinking is different. I'm a person of logic. Thinking in a straight line has helped me get through university, jobs in counseling and program development. It's helped me write a non-fiction book on how to discover and develop your strengths. I'm a straight ahead thinker - except when it comes to writing fiction. My creative thinking works circularly - not linear. I can't move from logical plot point to logical plot point in a straight line when I am creating fiction. Instead, I need to hover over and around an idea for a long stretch - breathing life and dimension into it until it stands on it's own feet. Then I can move on to the next part.

2. I don't think inside of timelines. A funny realization for someone who wrote a novel called Time and Time Again - but for me, story rises above time, outside of time. My brain is Brigadoon rising from the mists every few hundred years - it carries on, irrespective of time. This isn't the only reason I need a great editor to nail my feet to the floor, but it's a good one. Regardless of my good intentions, I never write enough time cues into my novels. Why? I think sequentially - but not in terms of time. This happens, then that happens. That's good enough for my creative mind. But it isn't good enough when I hope to bring readers along for the ride. I have a note on my computer screen reminding me to include time cues at the beginning of scenes.

3. I create fiction within a specific, tightly framed time frame. Okay, I just said I don't think in terms of time lines. True enough, but that hasn't stopped me from seeing a time pattern within my writing. My stories (thus far) take place between late spring and early fall. I'm a summertime gal! These months hold fascination for me. I'm Canadian, so winter often means a sort of semi-hibernation. Summer is where the action is. As I've reflected about this, I've come to discover that my most idealistic hopes, my favorite memories are in summer. Life happens in seasons - seasons of joy, sadness, wellness, loss, striving, or blessing (to name a few). It seems I am drawn to a literal season in which to tell my stories.

4. Blind faith works. I simply believe. I believe in my story. In my ability to tell it. In the reality of the novel finished and on the shelf. Even when the words come out cockeyed, or worse, don't come at all. I've wrested with the issue of writing fiction (anyone who has sat alone for a long period of time talking only to imaginary characters will understand the need to be absolutely sold out to the idea that what you are doing is important) as I wrote Time and Time Again. I had long talks with God about if this is what he truly wants me to be doing. I was willing to accept his answer whatever it may have been. And all the while, I wrote. Some good words. Some bad words. Edit, edit. Pray, pray. And I kept writing. Because inside my questions and doubt, I had faith.

5. I know my team is behind me. My teams begins with my family. My husband is the primary reason I'm able to stay at home and write. He believes in me. My kids, too. My "in the industry" team is behind me - and there is nothing like knowing the people who agent, edit, and publish you believe you will create something special. My publisher has sent surprise e-mails simply to say, "I'm a fan, and I'm praying for you." My editor has talks to me frequently, reinforcing her faith in our partnership. Having a team of people who care about me as a person has made all the difference. Boosted my faith, brightened my disposition, and helped me finish the novel. Everyone needs a team who believes in them!

How about you? What have you learned about yourself as you've journeyed into the world of fiction writing? How is the "figuring it out" process going? I'd love to hear your insights!


Sharon K. Souza said...

Excellent post, Bonnie. Novel writing is certainly a journey of self-discovery. I'm often amazed at what I find in the deep parts of me. But when we draw on that as we write, that's what brings stories that make a difference, that do more than entertain. They connect, reader to writer. Writing is not just tapping out words on a screen. It's a multi-dimensional experience, and I love it.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I agree with your statement about new things when one is published - and sometimes the more I learn, the less I feel I know!

Bonnie Grove said...

Sharon: You are so right. We are looking to pull out the universal experience within our own hearts and minds - well said!!

Diane: I totally agree. I've learned how much more I need to learn. It's good to embrace that reality. :)

Patti Hill said...

Your writing works because of your integrity. You're open, bent on pushing through, and you're smart. What you've said here resonates because of its truth. Writing a novel is impossible until you believe you can do it and DO IT. I'm still on the journey with my WIP, feeling at times terrified, overwhelmed, and Quixotic. Congratulations, you showed up, you prayed, you leaned on those who love you.

Koala Bear Writer said...

Great post, Bonnie. Thanks for sharing your insight! I think the one that jumped out at me is believing in yourself... right now, I'm finding it hard to write because I don't. There was a time when I wrote just for the love and joy of it, but since then I've learned so much about writing - and read so many great books - that I'm almost scared to keep going. I also think that all great writing has to come from a very deep part of a person - from their pain and tough life experiences - and it's hard to delve that deep.

April W Gardner said...

It's always encouraging to me to hear experienced authors say they're always learning. Well, it's encouraging and discouraging! I feel I have so far to go and will never arrive...both statements are very true. All the more reason to rely on Him for every word and give Him the praise for every success.
And that's what I've learned about myself. None of this is my doing! It's Gods.
Thanks for sharing.