I’ve been thinking lately about the stages of writing that I go through when I write a novel. It struck me that there are seven stages (a delightfully magical number.)
I’m going to give an overview of them today and then go into more detail in later posts.
Archimedes famously had his Eureka moment in a bath and Sir Isaac Newton had his when musing in an orchard and an apple dropped on his head. Albert Einstein got his idea of relativity when he was sitting in a railway and saw another train move off and wondered which was actually moving. How often have I done this? And yet I never thought of the Theory of Relativity.
I sometimes wonder about the things which inspired writers.
Once I have my inspiration I usually run with it, lying down and staring at the sky or ceiling, musing on the original idea and hoping the muse will be kind. More on inspiration next time.
After you get the original idea it is a good idea to let the idea lie dormant for a while. After all this is similar to what nature does when it gives us winter and allows fields, plants and animals the chance to recuperate. Ideas need time to settle down, munch on the mulch and send out little roots hither and tither in search of additional ideas and concepts.
Thomas Alva Edison, perhaps the greatest inventor the world has ever seen, famously said that ‘Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.’
Although this may seem a rather disappointing statistic I find it encouraging. I only have to put in the effort and I’ll reach where I want to be. K. Anders Ericsson has done a fascinating study on the importance of working persistently at something in order to achieve your goals.
Benjamin Bloom, the educationalist is famous for developing his taxonomy of learning. I was always surprised that he considered evaluation a higher level skill than creativity.
That was until I started writing seriously. Now I realise he was right. Evaluating one’s own work is notoriously difficult. But for the indie writer it is one of the most crucial of skills and practices. I know that a modern taxonomy has placed creativity higher than evaluation but it’s my blog and for the purposes of my argument I’m sticking with the original.
Sir Arthus Quiller-Couch first said, ‘Murder your darlings,’ way back in the nineteent century. The concept is so useful that writers as diverse as Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Stephen King and Sauron, Lord of the Rings, have also been quoted as saying it. Whoever says it means the same thing.
That the serious writer, after evaluating what they have written, should be most suspicious of the things he or she loves best. The poetic turn of phrase, the witty riposte in a line of dialogue, (even though the speaker would never say it), the words so beautiful that they make the reader stop…and lose the plot and not turn over the page. So, ‘Kill your darlings.’
I’ve always like the idea of the phoenix. And I’m using the term resurrection for this stage of writing. After months or years of writing, when the original spark for your idea has been long forgotten and the ardent flames of your creative phase have sunken into sullen, dying embers your book is finally published. And so, phoenix-like arises from the ashes.
You may be heartily sick of it but your words, with luck, will delight and enthrall your readers as much as they possibly did for you.
This is the final stage of writing and it takes place most often after you have finished. Because once you have published your book the unslain little darling does not die. Far from it. If you give it a little while and are receptive, it will project itself further in your imagination.
A new idea may emerge, an aspect of one character which you did not allow yourself to explore may knock on the window of your mind and say, invent a new character and allow me to exist.
Like the Worm Oroboros, this stage leads back, tail in mouth, to the very beginning.