|Each writer walks her own path.|
I loved hearing about how Chelsey works – knitting her way into an essay. She’s found that it works best for her to think it through before she starts actually writing. And there’s Cathy with all of her prewriting, getting to know her characters before she sets words on paper. She knows her world intimately before she gets to work.
Me? I have my own way of coming into a piece. I very often start with a situation. What would happen if . . . ? Who would find themselves in X situation? What is the story behind . . . ?
I don’t know much more than the situation that starts it all when I start writing and so I begin with this situation. In Airstream, my middle grade science fiction novel, I started with the ship waking up as three siblings come out of hypersleep. I knew that this was how the story opened just as I knew that my main character had no clue why she was on this ship. How would she react? Before I could write the second scene, I had to get to know her.
That means that I leave my computer and find someplace to knit and noodle. Or crochet and noodle. My husband often finds me stretched out on the sofa turning yarn into a baby blanket or a shawl. “I thought you were writing?” “I’m noodling. If you need something to do . . .” Soon I’m back to noodling.
When I know my character, what she loves, what matters to her, and how she feels about herself, then I come back to the story and write the next scene. Usually when I’m about two scenes in I’m ready to meet at least some of my secondary characters. Then I start playing with my outline. Next I familiarize myself with the rest of my characters. Then I finalize my outline.
At that point, I go back and fix my first two scenes. Invariably a few things have changed but surprisingly enough they are generally small things.
At last I’m ready to fall into the first draft. As I write, I do research. Fortunately, I’m sharing my office with my husband who has a lifelong fascination with all things NASA. “How can you die in space? They can’t get smacked by a rock. That’s too easy.” “Why would your air handlers fail?” “How do you put on an EVA suit?” “What do you call that thing that astronauts use to . . .”
It may seem like a stop and start way to write, but it works for me. Maybe you prefer to prewrite. Maybe your path includes lots and lots of time not writing but noodling. Maybe you need to journal or play hopscotch or quilt or landscape or go to the opera.
The important thing is that you find something that works for you. And when someone says, “I thought you were writing,” suggest that they do some odious chore. They’ll almost always go on their merry way and leave you to whatever it is you need to do to prepare to write.
Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 27 books for young readers. To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.
The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on September 6, 2021). Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.
Sue is also the instructor for Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins September 6, 2021) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins September 6, 2021).