At a certain point, one must begin…again. Looking back, writing a novel seems an impossible thing to have done, and an even more impossible thing to do again. Frankly, it’s hard on life and on the body. One must forsake things—pleasures often. “Write novel” is a space-and time-sucking-up thing to have on the To Do list, and it will park itself at the top of that list for years. So reluctance and its sister resistance sets in. However, as pointed out by Susan Shaughnessy in Walking on Alligators (a wonderful book of meditations for writers), resistance is the first stage. In other words: I’m already writing.
About two years ago I read a book on writing that included a card technique for this initial process that appealed to me: From Where you Dream, by Robert Olen Butler.
It’s Chapter 5 that interests me, “A Writer Prepares”: which is exactly what I need to do. The technique is “dream-storming”: investing 6 to 12 weeks or so (i.e. serious time) just dreaming up scenes, a good 200 or so. The next step is put them on cards, spread them out and begin to find the shape of the story.
What I like about this approach is that as you write, and when the story begins not to work (like immediately), you stop and re-dream it, so the plot is not a fixture, but an organic thing that keeps changing. Which, of course, it does anyway, but I’d like not to spend eight years trying to sort it out this time. What I’d like is to dream the story this year and write it the next, second and third drafts the year following.
But first, I must actually begin.