To Each Her Own

Friday, August 13, 2021
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). 


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--Thanks for sharing the inner workings of your writing mind--a scary place ;)

If someone was watching me as I write, they might see me make some weird gesture or facial expression. If they would ask, I'd tell them: I'm acting out something so I can describe it in words. They might see me stare at the ceiling. If they asked, I'd tell them I was clueless/lost, and was trying to find some inspiration/signpost. They might see me typing in a question for "Dr. Google" and if they were curious, I'd tell them, "I wasn't sure if there were alarm clocks in 1921 that had glow-in-the-dark numbers."

You're fortunate your husband is curious AND helpful.

Do any of the characters in Airstream knit or crochet? I was always fascinated with the Madame Defarge character in "Tale of Two Cities"--the one who knit to chronicle the French Revolution.

Great post, as always. You remind us we're all different in our process and our needs...

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I work through dialogue aloud sometimes.

When I saw your question about knitting and crochet, I realized that one of the secondary characters is a knitter. She's just come into the story so that trait had yet to make an appearance.

Thank you for the nudge!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Was all set to read Airstream but I guess it's not published--yet. :-) It sounds fascinating, Sue, put me on your list for when it comes out!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I'm going to need Beta readers when I get it done. -hint hint-

Renee Roberson said...

Glad to know I'm not the only one who "noodles." My noodling includes cleaning the house from top to bottom, prep cooking, googling, or going outside for a walk or run. I enjoy learning about how others work their way backwards into their stories!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Cleaning house to noodle is risky. As soon as I figure out what to do next in my story, back to the keyboard! Darling husband has come home to half trimmed shrubs, laundry dumped on the bed with only half of it folded, etc. If you are deep cleaning, you are much more disciplined than I am!

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