Writing is 99% thinking, and the rest is typing. — Ray Bradbury
When I first started writing, I did it the hard way. I just wrote the first thing that came to mind. I got an idea, character, setting, or ect. in my head and I wrote it down immediately.
It was fun. I produced a story, or maybe a part of a story, or maybe really just words on a page. But damn if I didn’t feel proud of my accomplishment. A proud Momma with her precious baby.
And then I got some experience under my belt and that happy bubble popped when I realized I was doing it all wrong.
Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.” — David McCullough
Isn’t that the truth, David. But of course it took me awhile to figure that out, and I did by happy accident (that’s usually when the best ah ha moments come).
I spent months writing a story in my head. It was so awesome, cool, and on a freaking large scale, I was kind of afraid to put it down on paper. I thought, “It’s too big and too cool to write. And what if I mess it up?” So I drug my feet and I refused to write a single word, but damn if I didn’t spend hours upon hours building my world inside my head.
One evening over drinks and listening to a local guitarist at a little pub, I asked my good friend and writing buddy if I should write it. Naturally, she said yes. Do it. If it’s consumed that much of your time, you should write the story.
So I did.
And when I started writing, it was like a dam broke and I couldn’t freaking stop. I wrote in the morning, in the middle of the day, in the evening, late at night. Any single second I wasn’t doing things I absolutely had to do (and sometimes I didn’t even do that), I was writing.
My husband and son weren’t happy. I’m pretty sure I forgot to feed my son a few times (not that he couldn’t find the refrigerator himself) and if anyone wanted clean clothes my husband had to pick up the slack (okay, so he might do that still to this day). But I couldn’t be bothered by those kinds of things then, because beautiful, wonderful, extraordinary things were happening at my fingertips.
A month later I finally came up for air. I took a deep breath. I looked around. And I looked at my word count. Holy crap, close to the 60,000 word mark and I pretty much had a whole novel done. Just like that. Well, the skeleton, anyways.
How was I able to just let it out like that when before I would be writing for a few hours and I’d have to stop because I felt like my brain had been squeezed dry?
Yep, you guessed it.
I spent so much time thinking about the story (I think it was about six months or so), the characters, the setting, and the playing scenes over and over in my head, when I did finally start writing I didn’t have to stop and think. I already knew the ins and outs of what I wanted to write.
Now after I wrote this novel, I soon realized it wasn’t were I needed to start the story and the following month I promptly started the prequel novel, but the groundwork had been laid.
The next novel took about six months to write to the finished first draft. I guess I felt a little bit guilty about that whirlwind month of writing, especially when I would pick up my laptop and my son would whine, “Mom, can’t you play with me instead?” How could I resist such a plea?
But in my mind, I worked on the story even when I pushed the train around my son’s masterpiece of a track system he built just for us to play on (I actually do spend true quality time with my son, I swear I do!).
Over time though, my writing on the novel waxed and waned. It didn’t take me long to realize that it all centered around how much time I spent “thinking” about my novel and scenes I wanted to add or personality tweaks I wanted to make.
If I got in a tight spot and couldn’t write, I’d stop writing and just “think” until the answer came to me.
And it worked. Over and over.
Of course there have been times where my brain needed a break from it all, and I might lay the story down for a few weeks or a month or two, but my characters wouldn’t let me leave it alone for long before they popped in my head and demanded to be written about again.
Now it’s two and a half years later and I just reached the halfway mark on the fourth draft of my novel Blood Feud.
That’s a huge accomplishment when you know that the freaking book is 145,000 words and that with the first two drafts I rewrote most of the book each draft. And in the third draft I rewrote about half. This fourth draft (so far), I’ve only had to rewrite two chapters and a handful of scenes (and my fifth draft will only be a quick polish and it will be DONE).
But with each rewrite the book gets better, the story weaves together better, the word building becomes deeper and more descriptive, and characters are more fleshed out.
The truth is that even though I have spent hours upon hours of thinking and writing, I had not evolved enough as a writer to know what I wanted out of my story, and so I had to do a lot of rewriting, but that’s an entirely different blog post.
One writer says it best…
“The secret of becoming a writer is to write, write and keep on writing.” –Ken MacLeod
One of the best ways to be a good writer is to keep on writing.
And the best way to get the most out of each and every writing session is to be a good thinker.
6 thoughts on “To Be a Good Writer Means to Be a Good Thinker”
Most of my stories figure out what sort of a story they actually are about halfway through the second draft.
Thank you. Yes, it’s amazing the joinery a story takes with every rewrite. It can be quite surprising and it makes writing that much more fun.
“It’s too big and too cool to write. And what if I mess it up?”
That’s exactly where I’m sitting right now. The story is in my head, about a third of it is already written and now I’m paralysed by thinking exactly what you said there. So I decided to take a break over December, let the story simmer in my head on a small flame and concentrate on other things. In January I will return to it and just write down what I came up with.
You are right, we have to give us time and headspace to think before we write.
Good for you. Sometimes all it takes is a break and time to “think” the answer through. Too often we think we have to write, because we are writers, but “thinking” is writing too. Good luck with getting that story down!
Reblogged this on YOURS IN STORYTELLING… and commented:
It is a very old joke but a true one – whenever my wife sees me staring out a window she KNOWS that I am most likely working. Writing goes on all day long. A writer breathes in material and breathes out stories. His mind is a constant pressure cooker and there is not telling when it is going to boil over onto the page.
Have I mixed enough metaphors for you today???