In my previous post I wrote about the first stage in writing a story, the idea, the germ, the “aha moment.”
For me it’s hard to start a story with only an idea. There has to be something more, something emotional, a sensitive situation, a touching moment. To quote Dorothy Canfield Fisher:
“Generally intensified emotional sensitivity … when events that usually pass unnoticed suddenly move you deeply, when a sunset lifts you to exaltation, when a squeaking door throws you into a fit if exasperation, when a clear look of trust in a child’s eyes move you to tears.”
Then comes a process of reflection, and meditation. Sort of conscious, wakeful dreaming. As Angus Wilson calls it, “the gestatory period” which he says is:
“…very important to me. That’s when I’m persuading myself of the truth of what I want to say, and I don’t think I could persuade my readers unless I’d persuaded myself first.”
“I always remember the date, the place, the room, the road, when I first was struck. For instance, World Enough and Time. Katherine Anne Porter and I were both in the Library of Congress as fellows. We were in the same pew, had offices next to each other. She came in one day with an old pamphlet, the trial of Beauchamp for killing Colonel Sharp. She said, ’Well, Red, you better read this.’ There it was. I read it in five minutes. But I was six years making the book. Any book I write starts with a flash, but takes a long time to shape.” Robert Penn Warren
Georges Simenon writes:
“As soon as I have the beginning, I can’t bear it very long. … and two days later I begin writing.”
“I never quite know when I’m not writing,” says James Thurber. “Sometimes my wife comes to me at a dinner party and says, ‘Dammit, Thurber, stop writing.’ She usually catches me in the me in the middle of a paragraph. Or my daughter will look up from the dinner table and ask, “Is he sick?” ‘No,’ my wife says, ‘he’s writing.’”
While Nelson Algren writes page after page to find his plot. He says:
“I always figured, the only way I could finish a book and get a plot was just to keep making it longer and longer until something happens.”
“I invariably have the illusion that the whole play of a story, its start and middle and finish, occur in my mind simultaneously- that I’m seeing it in one flash.” Truman Capote
I too take a long time to write my book, a very very long time.
Happy writing everyone!