The Mechanics of Writing

More signs from the Universe helping me along the way toward novel writing month as I have declared November to be… Last night I was driving home and listening to NPR at a time that I don’t normally tune in. It was a lecture by an author, Ann Patchett, being broadcast and immediately I was intrigued because it was all about the writing process. Coincidence? Probably not. One of the big points she made is that there are three things that are required to write a novel – 1) Commitment; 2) Mechanics (or Tools); and 3) Imagination. And, she said that it was really IN THAT ORDER that you needed these elements to be successful.

So, I began taking stock. I have the commitment – I will write every day in November and end the month with a completed novel of at least 50,000 words. Those are my specific deliverables that make the process real. The Mechanics (or Tools… I can’t remember the exact word she was using but you’ll get the idea) were the things that she said are essential to any creativity. Things like plot, character development, outlines, etc. Without the mechanics of writing it just doesn’t work. Then, and only then, came the imagination. Huh, SO not how I pictured it going… I thought I had to have this big imaginative idea that would blow every one’s mind and THEN I could come up with a plot and an outline, etc. Apparently according to Ann Patchett, this is a very common misconception. Lucky for me, I think, that I’m in good company?

Tonight I decided to skip the “should do” activities scheduled for after the little one was tucked in her bed and work on the novel. (Real estate continuing ed can wait, right?!?) I had already been collecting random thoughts over the last few weeks (read “imagination coming first” here) when I came up with ideas that fit with the book idea I have rattling around loosely in my head. But tonight I started to create an outline from a very high level making notes on each character and how they relate to the other characters. I started to create a plot and overall theme of “what is the book about”. And as I exercised the basic skills of writing (my high school Engish teacher and college professors would be SO proud) the story started to emerge and get me really excited about it. Already I have taken things to a much more inter-twined and complicated level than I thought I could come up with simply using my imagination tool. But, when coming at it from the mechanics, it seemed to just fall into place giving it more depth than I thought I had in me at this stage of the game. I think the imagination has to come later when I really start to write the thing – when I will have to give substance and expression to what I have begun to construct in the mechanics phase.

Lucky for me I had this “little” revelation and bit of success since the newly-formed writing group has set the date for our first meeting and we all have to submit a sample of our writing for discussion. Since I can’t “officially” start writing because of the NaNoWriMo program, we are going to discuss my outline. (I know, I know… ME, following rules! Just go with it…) Look out world, I might just be ready to start this novel when the time comes thanks to the help of all the various outlets I keep stumbling upon (or manifesting, whichever way you want to look at it).

The funny thing? I haven’t picked up a book for almost a week so obsessed I am getting with writing. Stay tuned….

About terraluft

Writer; wife, mother, survivor, and impulsive bitch rarely capable of saying no. Fueled by coffee, yoga and sarcasm. (She/Her) View all posts by terraluft

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