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Today, I have Jasmine Warga here talking about her writing process. But like her book, My Heart and Other Black Holes, there's a message behind what could be glanced over if not read properly. I got to read this post earlier as I was formatting - loved it.
So with that said, I’ll tell you a little about what works for me. The first thing you should know about my writing process is that it’s messy. Really messy. No lie, it is probably the messiest of any of my writing friends. Most of them actually find my process to be downright insane. I do not outline—I actually do whatever the opposite of outlining is—perhaps improvise? (Also, when I get stuck, I spend an inordinate amount of time snuggling on the floor with my dog, which I’m going to go out on a limb and guess isn’t a part of Stephen King’s process.)
I normally start out with a voice. Something about a certain voice will grip me and from there I form a character. And then I wonder about that character. I test the character out in a few situations to try and get a sense of what this character is grappling with or going through and then I begin to base my story around that. I like to center my books around the idea of a character question—what is this character asking? What is standing in the way of the character figuring out the answer? By the end of the book, will they figure it out?
As you would imagine, this is not the fastest way to write a book. And it certainly isn’t the most productive. I end up with pages and pages of pre-writing; words that are virtually unusable in novel form but that I had to write in order to understand my character and figure out her voice. Regardless of how messy and inefficient this process may seem, I can’t imagine writing any other way.
For me, the best part of writing is discovery. The thrill of getting to slip into a skin other than your own, to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Writing, to me, is an exercise in empathy more than in imagination. I’m interested in trying to walk that proverbial mile (or rather 65,000 words) in someone else’s shoes, and I always find that in doing this, I end up learning something new about myself as well.
E.L. Doctorow has a quote about writing that I love: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” This quote very much speaks to my writing process, except I often veer off the road and crash into a tree and then have to repair my car and you get the idea. And not to mix metaphors too badly, but I suppose I believe writing is like playing in the rain. I have to do it every day, for hours on end, in the hopes of increasing my chance of being struck by lightning.
So I’d like all the young writers out there to know that it’s okay if your process doesn’t match your friend’s style. Writing is not a competition, and what works for one person, might not to work for another. The important thing is just to write, to keep writing, and to trust in your OWN process. And in the end, we all eventually arrive at the same place. Word by word.
As a teen writer, I definitely enjoyed reading this post. It makes a lot of sense and holds even more wisdom. Lots to think about, whether you're a writer or not.
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Thanks for checking out my blog and remember: Be kind to one another. - Ellen
Thanks so much to Jasmine for donating a signed hardcover of My Heart and Other Black Holes!
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