Writing isn’t about making friends with my characters, but trying to understand them. It’s a process. What I write in a “book proposal” is a faint shadow of who the characters are and what they will do. I don’t even know any of that yet. What is important is what these new people in my life will become in the course of writing “about” them. When they (finally — hopefully) take on a life of their own, breathing out their own words and thoughts, the story begins to happen. I become more like a court recorder than a creator.
Until that spark happens, writing is more like going to gym after having taken a year of vacation on a cruise line with buffets and then being turned over to a trainer who is a retired Marine drill instructor.
If anyone were to ask me how to write a book proposal (which is what I’m working on right now), I would have to admit honestly I have no idea. I can offer a “working title”, a (possible) theme, a host of characters with their attributes (sort of) and a story line (sort of). In truth, the finished work will look entirely different that what I’m proposing to do.
The new project I’m attempting to start has plagued me for months. I dream scenes and dialogue. I have an opening line. I hear the characters carrying on conversations in my head. It can be quite distracting. I know there are times when I have a blank stare on my face because my husband will ask if I heard something he said and I won’t even know he had been talking. Because I’ve been locked in my skull, wandering around in there, pondering ideas, hearing voices.
It one particular Voice I want to hear.
Years ago, I thought being a writer meant I had to go off somewhere alone and be inspired and write without any distraction – or interference. Now I know it means working in the middle of chaos, or as we all know it – “normal life”.
When asked what this new book is going to be, I can only answer: I don’t know yet. I have to write it and find out.