Questions I’m asked about writing:
How do you go about writing a novel?
I find the process to be very difficult and very interesting. I think ideas for character and plot from the unconscious—which is another way of saying they just come to me, mysteriously, when I sit down to write. I begin every morning at nine and just write and write without judgment, until I have at least 50,000 words.
For me, the time for editing and judgment begins now, with the second draft. I’ll throw out sentences, develop others, revise the structure, moving chapters and paragraphs around. Writing the second draft is like molding good clay and much easier than writing from scratch. As my characters come alive I’ll write down what they do and say—sometimes I dream about them. In the same way, if my plot is vivid enough on the page, it will tell me what happens next.
Here is how Roxana Robinson does it:
“I write about the things that trouble me. I write about the things that disturb me, the things that won’t let me alone, the things that are eating slowly into my brain at three in the morning, the things that unbalance my world. Sometimes these are things I’ve said or done; sometimes they’re things I’ve heard about or seen. Sometimes they’re only sentences, sometimes scenes, sometimes complete narratives. I carry these things around inside my head until I’m compelled to write them down to get rid of them.”
Novelist Richard Ford:
“Clearly, many writers write for reasons other than a desire to produce great literature for others’ benefit. They write for therapy. They write to “express” themselves. They write to give organization to, or escape from, their long long days. They write for money, or because they are obsessive. They write as a shout for help, or an act of familial revenge. There are a lot of reasons to write a lot. Sometimes it works out OK.”
Writer Hans Koning on reviews:
“You don’t inquire what is selling those days. You don’t worry about what editors or reviewers may like or not like. You don’t read chapters to friends or to a long-suffering spouse in order to get an independent judgment. Your own judgment is independent.”
Next: excerpts from “Lost And Found:” a memoir.