Okay, so the title of this post makes it sound a bit iccky. I don’t mean to put any potential readers off, but it was the best analogy I could find.
Sure, I haven’t actually looked inside my head, and I suspect if I did it would look pretty gross. But being the squeamish kind anyway, that’s not something I’m about to do.
It’s more about the way I write. I’m not the sort of person who can finish off a story in a hurry. I like to take my time.
I’m constantly amazed at how quickly some people can churn out stories. I often see novelists releasing a new, full-length novel six months after the last one, and sometimes even less. There’s no way I could keep up with a pace like that. Partly, it’s because juggling writing with a full-time job and a family means I have very limited time to write in the first place. But also, it’s because ideas for stories just don’t come to me in such a fully-fledged way. It takes me a while for me to get my story properly worked out.
The first stage is the basic idea phase. An idea can hit me and I might think, “Hey, that’s a great idea for a story.” But there’s no way I’ll start writing it straight away. I like to leave some time for the idea to percolate around my head, twisting and turning it to see how it holds up, and considering all the possibilities that the story might involve. For very short stories, this may take several weeks. For something substantial like a novel, this can take more than a year. I’ll usually write out some notes so I don’t forget anything. I may even refer back to those notes later.
So once I think I have a handle on the story, it’s first draft time. But even then, I’ll need a lot more time to let all the ideas come to me. As I’m writing, I’ll often find that crucial details will come to me right in the middle of a sentence. By the time I’ve finished that first draft, I’ll know heaps more about the story than I did at the beginning.
You’d think that by this time, I’d have it all worked out, but even that’s not the case. That’s why once I’ve finished the first draft, I’ll let it sit again. Sometimes for a couple of months. Sometimes for several years. In that interval, the ideas will continue to seep out. I usually like to think that it’s at second draft stage that the story really comes together and the ideas become solidified.
So that’s why I can’t write a story in a hurry. From the initial idea to the final draft, I need that time for the ideas to gradually come to me. I know that I could churn out stories at a rapid rate, but I’d never be happy with the results. And because I want to make my stories as good as they can be, I’m happy to take that extra time.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as