Writing is a game of discovery

People always ask me how I write – how much I plan what I’m going to write before I actually begin – and I’ve always felt that I need to justify the answer I give. Readers assume that writers always know exactly how the story is going to go, that we know each character absolutely before we’ve begun, and that the endings to each of our stories are a forgone conclusion. They can visualize the note cards pasted on the wall to help give us direction and the endless outlines we keep in front of us to keep us on target. And they are absolutely incredulous when I tell them that none of those things hold true for me. I can see the disappointment on their faces, and I rush in to assure them that I’m sure other writers of different genres most certainly do those things.

To me, writing fiction is a game of discovery. I begin with the message that slowly evolves in my mind and let the characters that I’ll develop take their time to pop into my head and inform me that they are the ones to deliver that message. I have no idea how the story is going to go. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought I was going in the right direction, only to realize that I was trying too hard and that I had to take a different path than the one I was on. I can’t direct. The characters do that. In other words, I discover the story as I write. And that is what is so much fun. In a sense, I’m my first reader. I can honestly admit that there are times when I’ve gone back to what I’ve written hours or days before and asked myself, “Did I really say that? Where in the world did that come from?” It’s all a part of our past or our present, the people we’ve known, the strangers sitting across from us, the stories we’ve read, the news we’ve heard, our joys, our fears. It’s all there to rediscover, to make sense of, and make the story.

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