Staring Out the Window

“What no wife of a writer understands is that a writer is working when he’s staring out the window.” ~ Burton Rascoe


…this also applies to husband of the writer, children of the writer, friends of the writer, family of the writer…well, you get the picture.

This is the stage I am at with the rewrite I’m working on. Or “working” on, if you happen to drop by and find me staring out the window. I’m doing a very important step in the writing process, which is actually a precursor to writing itself. I’m thinking.

Which is not to say that I’m spending *all* my time thinking. I’m also re-reading, making notes, drawing charts and creating timelines. I’m juggling characters in my head and on index cards. I’m using colored markers to visualize the interconnectedness of people and events.

I’m plotting.

Plotting is something I’m better at doing on the fly, if the truth be known. Or maybe it’s just that my subconscious is often a better plotter than my conscious. I’ve had many novel and short story plots work out when I don’t have things planned down to the last detail–really, when I don’t have them planned at all–when suddenly, somewhere in the middle of writing, there’s this enormous epiphany and my conscious mind realizes that this, and that, and that tie together and make it possible for this to happen and that’s how it all works out in the end. That is a lovely, lovely moment for me, when my subconscious mind is revealed, and lo, it is good.

However. It’s not exactly…dependable. It doesn’t happen every time. Sometimes the epiphany doesn’t come, and I realize that I’ve lost my way, and the writing comes to a full stop. Which is why I have learned that I can’t completely trust my subconscious. Sometimes it’s a wonder, and sometimes it’s a real jerk.

So now I do this thing where I think and think and think and plan and chart and scribble notes and ask myself questions. It’s not an outline. Anyone who writes actual outlines, like my friend Steph, would either laugh or cry if I pointed to my pile of plot refuse and said it was my outline. It’s not an outline, and it’s not a road map, and it’s not even a really badly-drawn treasure map. It’s more like a heap of organic stuff from which, if I plant the right seed, a tree will take root and grow. Some of the nutrients will get used up in growing the tree, and some won’t. I’ll have to add a lot more stuff like earth and water and sunlight (writing and revising and editing?) because the heap itself is only a starting point. But from the heap, good things can emerge.

Hmmm. Did I just say that my plotting style is like heaping up a big pile of manure?

Time to go stare out the window again for a while.

Photo credit: mjio

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One Comment

  1. My sentiments exactly. It’s as though I wrote this. Thank you.

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