Last spring, my friend Janet had come home from Ireland to work on her second novel. She invited me to visit at her dad’s cottage overlooking the beautiful Annapolis River for the weekend. We would catch-up; maybe even write a little, she said.
“What are you doing, Marnster?”
I was sitting at the kitchen table, scrolling through pictures I had taken of Tofino beaches from my last couple of trips. “Re-writing my Tofino scenes. Just … looking through my pictures. Why?” She told me that she was curious about my writing process.
I remember thinking, writing process? I have a writing process?
Years ago, on recommendation, I bought a book called You can Write a Novel when I decided that I wanted to take another stab at the craft. ‘Map it out – every detail of plot, character and story on index cards – know where you’re going before you even sit at the keyboard’, was the directive of author James V. Smith Jr.
I dutifully went to the dollar store; bought my cards and … fought with them until I was so discouraged I just gave up. Did not work for me. At all. So, I put the index cards away and went back to what I’ve always done: sat my butt in the chair, put my fingers to the keyboard and directed them to move.
In the early days of writing this story, I poured over many ‘help with writing’ books, but I tried to choose more wisely after my experience with Mr. Smith Jr.
My cousin Liz had sent me The Creative Habit by dancer/choreographer Twyla Tharp when I graduated from my Masters. Habit leads to success is the message within. And so, when I was ready, I carved out my writing time: six a.m. every day. No excuses. No matter where I am. Well, mostly …
On Liz’s recommendation, I bought a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft at Bolen Books when I was visiting Victoria.
Stephen King saved me.
Writing, for King, is like archaeology … stories are found objects, he says, “… part of an undiscovered pre-existing world.” I happen to wholeheartedly agree. I’ve always approached my writing much like King does; much like I approach life, I suppose – I make it up as I go. Just like Indiana Jones, come to think of it!
Janet told me about The Joy of Writing Sex by Elizabeth Benedict; another instrument I am happy to include in my writing toolbox. There is no way in hell I want to be nominated for the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award, should I ever be so lucky to be published!
I’ve used many tools in writing this story: Music, travel, photography, even dreams I’ve had and real life experiences too. My husband teases me relentlessly, asserting that anything that happens to me in ‘real life’ will end up in my book. And, he’s kind of right. But not always …
And so, I’ve discovered, of course; I do have a writing process! I’ve watched myself uncover it over the past couple of years, page-by-page, sentence-by-sentence; finding what works, learning what doesn’t. Well, what works for this project, anyway.