Why and How I Write (2)

The way I write is mysterious. I don’t pretend to understand it. I put myself into a meditative state and let the story come to me, as if someone other than me (a muse, for example) is telling me what to write. That means that the characters (who appear to me as if from the void) sometimes do things I’m not expecting. I never know the end of a story until I write it.

In that meditative state, my unconscious talks to me. It brings into my conscious mind memories I have forgotten or suppressed. I relive the unspeakable experience of combat during which men by my side were killed in ways so grisly that I can’t talk about their deaths, even today. I see and hear people from my past. Events long forgotten reappear.

What inspires a story is a vivid moment that captures my imagination. I envision what must have led up to that moment and what followed it. As I write, the story unfolds before me as if some force outside myself were dictating it to me.

Once I have a completed first draft of a story or novel, I put it aside to cool. My mind needs time away from the text so that I can return to it with fresh eyes. With a short story, the cooling time can be as little as a month. With a novel, it is longer, as much as a year.

Up to that point the writing process has been using the right side of my brain, the creative, intuitive, emotional organ. Then comes revision. That’s the province of the left side of the brain, the rational, intellectual, even mathematical function. Revising consists of cutting unneeded words, finding more succinct ways of expressing an idea, replacing long sentences with short ones. I rearrange paragraphs, reshape chapters, look for natural breaks in the story to see if it needs to be divided into sections.

More tomorrow.

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