Yesterday, I started something new. A new novel (with the working title A Little Piece of Tomorrow which I’m worrying sounds too soap-opera-ish — comments welcome). No outlining or planning. I just wrote a few pages.
The whole issue of how people go through their writing process fascinates me. Stephen R. Donaldson, long one of my very favourite writers, writes about how he can’t start work on a new novel — doesn’t even have a novel to start on — unless he knows how it’s going to end. For him, it doesn’t even mean anything until he knows the ending.
Stephen King, on the other hand, talks in his book On Writing about how for him writing feels like archaeology, like discovering some vast and forgotten ruin. The only way for him of finding out what the place is like is by keeping going.
Neither seems to favour the idea of the point-by-point outline. When I wrote the currently-in-third-draft The Year of the Backward Glass, I guess I went more for the King approach, though I can’t say I’m sure it worked for me. I’m not certain if there’s a single sentence now that looks like it used to. Whole chapters, whole characters and whole sub-plots have been cut. I’m not saying the process wasn’t fun — it actually was. But if that was archaeology, then I started off by digging up the wrong city entirely. What hasn’t changed from my first draft to my most recent is the feeling of the thing, its mood and tone.
So here I am again, at the start of a new journey. I don’t have an outline, and I don’t exactly know how it will end, but again I’m pretty sure how this new novel should feel. Still, I don’t want to dig up the wrong city again, so I might do a little outlining before I proceed.
Wish me luck.