17 September 2012

Process

Hours of the Virgin 15th cent.
Dictionary.com defines 'process' as:

a systematic series of actions directed to some end (to devise a process for homogenizing milk) or; a continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place in a definite manner (the process of decay)

When asked about my writing process I find that people are shocked at my lack of organization. I don't plan what is going to happen. I never have. Of course I do my research, I do a lot of it, but I don't plot structure or end points. Structure grows organically as I go. Maybe this makes me a 'bad' writer. A 'not serious' writer.

My writing is more a procession than a process. There are people/objects/events and they are elaborately clothed. They walk along some street, it may be quiet or packed with observers. There may be an object of worship being carried on the backs of those processing. There may be a queen on a seat. A virginal child to be slaughtered. A bull. They could be chanting. There is more than likely inexplicable smoke.

The crowd is moving towards a unified future. An ill-defined site of finality. That period at the end of the thought. Along the way one of them will take focus, will form relationships with the others, will enact something akin to story. And then they will find their site of period. Another will rise.

Funeral Procession for Elizabeth I

That I choose to describe my thoughts as a mob of people stalking streets in religious fervor is probably all kinds of crazy. You can tell me that to my face. I won't mind.

J recently asked me about how the writing of my second novel is going. I should catch you up:

I wrote a novel last year. I spent a full year working on it, worrying about it, caring for it. I recently started the process (that is certainly a structured set of actions) of finding an agent. It is going well but is early days. A visceral response to the process was to delve back into the world and start the second book. Eventually it will be a trilogy.

So J asked me how it was going. The outline, the acts, etc. I don't do that. I wrote the first book from beginning to end in 2 months. I wrote 10 or so pages a day. I have been editing and rewriting since then. This is how my procession works. I write something in a flush of energy. Then I stand away a bit, and stare into what happened.

Orion Nebula
It is like looking at the nebula left from nova and trying to find new stars.

Then I go in and arrange, rewrite. I emphasize certain parts, take others out. In general I try to shape what naturally happened in the initial outpour.

Do not misunderstand, I do not adhere to the wrong-headed idea of 'first thought best thought'. I adhere to a strict sense that the initial impulse creates its own momentum, that how it expressed itself was on purpose. It is a matter of finding the facets and polishing.

Did you know that some stars turn into diamonds when they die? Our own sun is predicted to end this way. At the end of the procession is a huge frozen nova core. Reflecting endlessly into space.

And that is a body of work isn't it? Millions of facets polished until they reflect the author perfectly. Of course some of us never get that far. Some do. Some leave behind cracked mirrors.

You can say that my lack of focus will impede my attempts to leave something. Even an imperfect something. And you may be right. But so might I.