Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Of Course Neil Said It Best...

I love talking about writing. I love thinking about how stories are put together, about books. I love analyzing my process, and learning of others'. Trying new ones on for size.

But still, I inwardly laugh whenever I talk about how I write, because it changes. Constantly. And yet it stays the same. When it comes down to it, I have no idea. It's like trying to determine the method of a tornado: it's chaotic. I convince myself it's not, but it must be. Or maybe there's some disconnect, where we are not allowed to know our own process, so we don't keep duplicating the same results?

I have no idea.

Neil Gaiman said it best:

Writers are honestly the last people that you should listen to when you actually ask important questions about the process of having written, because we misremember. We half remember things; we go, "I think it must have occurred like this," and we think of things.

There are interviews in which I say that I tried writing Wolves in the Walls at least twice, and it wasn't until I had the idea of the line "when the wolves come out of the walls, it's all over," it suddenly clicked into place, and I had the voice, and I had the whole thing. I believed that was true when I said it.

Except when we were moving stuff up to the library I brought up lots of notebooks with things handwritten there. And one of the things I found there was either the third or the second version of Wolves in the Walls. They weren't really drafts, in the sense that when you've written something that's two thousand words long, and you don't get it right, it's easier to put it away and do it again six months later, or whatever.

But what was interesting was that, even though it didn't quite work, and it wasn't deep enough, that phrase is actually in it. So, I actually got it wrong.

And I keep forgetting:

Today I am grateful for those writers who write the stories that may not be big and literary, but can find and lovingly touch that little, vulnerable spot in your heart, the place where your deepest, most private wishes live side-by-side with your biggest, most private fears.

30 bonus scribbles:

Zoe Winters 12/02/2008 12:23:00 PM  

I know EXACTLY what he's saying. I think it's because writers tend to be highly self reflective people. We're trying to get to the root of our motivations for everything, so it's true when we say it, but a few months later we found another layer to it and we start talking about that layer. I think to anyone who doesn't get this process we look like we either have MPD or are pathological liars.

Melanie Avila 12/02/2008 01:55:00 PM  

Well, we're writers, we're supposed to tweak the original version. ;)

I love your grateful thing today.

Amy Nathan 12/02/2008 02:12:00 PM  

I love your grateful thing today too. And I love the honesty in Gaiman's quote...we misremember. Ah, how true!

spyscribbler 12/02/2008 02:57:00 PM  

Zoe, you're right! Just a few weeks ago I was pontificating about how I used outlines, how I could use them now that I'm more "experienced." And, hello, egg on face, the ONLY time I use outlines is when I'm scared and afraid I can't write what I'm writing.

spyscribbler 12/02/2008 02:58:00 PM  

SO true, Melanie!

And my grateful thing was inspired by an erotic novella I read last night, that truly touched my heart. Maybe it's not noble or literary or whatever, but it touched me deeply.

spyscribbler 12/02/2008 02:59:00 PM  

Totally, Amy! You know, I misremember how tough it is to write a novel every single time I start one! It's necessary to the creative process, I suspect.

Kath Calarco 12/02/2008 04:43:00 PM  

Spy, beautiful blog. Some days when I feel that I can't write one more paragraph, I read a blog that reminds me of the power of the written word. Today, your blog was it. :)

Janna Qualman 12/02/2008 04:59:00 PM  

He makes a lot of sense. No wonder so many love him! And I particularly like the second boxed part, because I feel like that's the place I'd like to fit as a writer. :)

Angie 12/02/2008 07:18:00 PM  

Gaiman's probably right, just because he usually is, but I'm still trying to figure out how I do this stuff, LOL! Although I keep learning more and more about my own process and habits and limitations and whatever all else, so by the time I've got it all heaped up in one pile, it'll probably be that bundle of chaos you mentioned and completely inexplicable. For now, though, I persevere. :D


Edie 12/02/2008 07:35:00 PM  

I can read Silhouette books by Ruth Wind and they touch me. Or a SuperRomance by Amy Knupp.

Sometimes I get an idea, and I think "I'm going to remember how I got this." Of course, I forget. I should keep journals to jot those things down, but I don't.

Robin 12/02/2008 07:48:00 PM  

That was a very thought provoking post. Now my brain hurts.

Caryn Caldwell 12/02/2008 08:05:00 PM  

Oh, I love that quote! It's so, so true, too. Kind of like how it's easy to forget all the agonizing we do after we finish writing, so every new book seems to be the most difficult one we've ever written. Or maybe that's just me...

By the way, I LOVE your new site design! Looks great.

Zoe Winters 12/02/2008 08:17:00 PM  

hahaha awwww Spy! I admire people who can write without outlines. It feels more "artistic" But I can't sleep without an outline, and the one time I wrote without one, I never untangled the mess. Though I may go back to it and totally overhaul it because I love the characters.

lainey bancroft 12/02/2008 08:37:00 PM  

"I am grateful for those writers who write the stories that may not be big and literary, but can find and lovingly touch that little, vulnerable spot in your heart, the place where your deepest, most private wishes live side-by-side with your biggest, most private fears."

DITTO! Ah, yeah, not very literary, or even 'writerly', but there it is!

Aimless Writer 12/02/2008 08:59:00 PM  

Well said!
Sometimes I think my motivation is just curiousity. Sometimes I sway one way, sometimes the other. Somethings I think have messages, others just ramble.

colbymarshall 12/03/2008 12:10:00 AM  

What a good post...working through and learning why we write what we do is interesting. Well done.

Barbara Martin 12/03/2008 04:58:00 AM  

I haven't read any of Neil Gaiman's work, but the comment you posted here is a good reflection of how I feel at times with my own work. It is written entirely in layers and is slowly built up over time while being polished to ease out the rough edges.

Persistent Pen 12/03/2008 08:06:00 AM  

I think you and I are on the same page.

I too often read books on writing that preach about 'the right way' to write successively and none of it works for me.

I think most of what we read about, how others do it, is not very important because none of them agree on any set 'right way'.

I daydream my writing. I lay in bed at night and fantasize my writing. And above all, I have no set discipline on how I write except that I write all the time.

And Zoe, I so know what mean by 'we either have MPD or are pathological liars' I even find crap in my blog that contradicts previous posts.

The first thing I'd tell another writer is, never take anything I say about writing to heart, I may decide different tomorrow.

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 10:51:00 AM  

Kath, I had one of those writing days yesterday. I think we who can write have a little bit of a responsibility to. Or, I think I do, at least.

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 10:52:00 AM  

Janna, it's definitely the sort of writer I love to read. :-) And Neil Gaiman is just awesome.

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 10:53:00 AM  

Angie, it's an important and useful study. Just sometimes I delude myself, I think. My mind plays little tricks on me, and my mind is definitely smarter than me, LOL.

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 10:55:00 AM  

Edie, Nicholas Sparks and, I believe, Virginia Woolf would keep/keep journals specifically for each book. So they'd journal why they wrote what they did, what their experience writing it was like, etc. I thought it was a fascinating idea, tried it, and my entries were too dumb to continue, LOL. But it's a cool idea.

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 10:58:00 AM  

Caryn, yes, yes, yes, that's it! And thanks! I'm worried it's loading too slow. Did you have that experience?

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 10:59:00 AM  

Zoe, I need an outline to "trail behind me," otherwise I lose the flow and the track of things.

I have made some messes in my life, for sure!

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 11:00:00 AM  

Lainey, I am so very grateful for that, I can't tell you!

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 11:00:00 AM  

Aimless, that's fascinating. I feel an element of curiosity at work when I write, definitely. What would happen if... ?

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 11:01:00 AM  

Colby, Neil Gaiman said it, not me. :-) But thank you! His words just spoke to me. :-)

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 11:02:00 AM  

Barbara, I like the imagery you make with that. Layers and building them up until they're polished and smooth. I can see that!

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 11:04:00 AM  

Oh, LOL, Persistent, I kept nodding all the way through your comment! SO TRUE! All of it! That's exactly how I feel. I contradict myself CONSTANTLY. And it's so true: there is no way.