The most cruel thing to happen to a writer? The most discouraging phenomena? It happens all the time. It’s that leap from head to paper. I cannot tell you how many times I have wandered around my house, or was driving, or in the shower, and a story flows through my head like ambrosia. It’s a perfect tale. An interesting story. And the prose is pure poetry.
So, of course, I run to pick up and pen or creak open the lap top door and get started, and it flows, it’s just not the right liquid. Where are the words that were in my head? Where did the flow go? Why is this boring and awkward? I’m forgetting the things I was imagining moments before! This is not what was there in my mind just milliseconds ago. Not only does it morph, but the evidence of what came before so quickly melts and disappears. I don’t even have possession of the original again to attempt another copy. What I write comes out way less poignant, choppy, confusing. I’m on my own. And there is so much work to do.
And that is where the magic is, at least for me. In the work. In the writing process. The writing process saves me. I don’t carve into stone, thank god. I could never do it. And this is why I keep my writing to myself before it has been gone over at least a dozen times. I have to throw up onto paper. And no one else can read my vomit. It’s illegible and illogical.
Here is my process: (I’ve never described it before)
Scribble it all out – I tell myself not to worry about it.
Read it over and fix only major big things. I try not to fix anything at all the first read.
Then I’m looking at details. Did I tell the story, too much, too little? Does it make sense? I usually add a lot here.
Then I read it again, again only fixing glaring mistakes.
Then I think about creating mood and developing characters. I’ll add and tweak imagery, I change even little words in dialogue, and let it speak for itself. I delete a lot here.
Then I read it again. I’m still finding glaring mistakes and fixing them. I’m still questioning if this story is being told.
Then comes the editing. All the previous is revision and in the end is editing and I view the two very differently. And it all comes down to “Fuck grammar.” Until the very end that is, and then it’s “Make love to grammar.” Slightly different. I go over a draft so many times in the editing part of the process. Because when I first write I don’t let myself even care about it. And it’s not hard, I don’t care. Correct prose does not equal well written prose. And I gotta move fast to get the disappearing ink in my mind down permanently. Of course, I remind you, it’s not permanent. It is going to change, what I initially wrote. And sometimes, through chipping away and polishing enough, I have a pretty stone I can be proud of.