My stories come fully formed. They arrive. They filter through the clouds, fall through the clear bit between the clouds and me, plonk themselves in my head and shriek, ‘Write meeeeee.’ I then have about an hour to wallop them out, before I forget them entirely.
Because of this, my life is a story graveyard. I remember very clearly a point last week when I genuinely thought about my latest idea, and realised, this was THE ONE. The perfect book; something I’d be enthusiastic about writing, with a story that was both complex, with strands of complementary subplots, while also retaining a simple humanity at its core. And it was original. It was a psychological thriller cum sociological observation, but basically a story about a girl.
Finally, I was flushed full of enthusiasm and that elusive joy, certainty – hurray. Then my child needed feeding, exercising, and putting to bed, and can I remember the story now? No. I remember how I categorised it, but the main story is absolutely gone.
I sometimes wish I were a ‘plotter’, because if you throw down a corkboard and cover it with post-it notes, jotting character references and peppering them with back-story, all the while picturing what this, that and the other character would actually do in a given circumstance, then even if you were to forget the whole premise of the book, at least you’d have some notes to jog the memory. For me, though, this kills the fiction. I plan my scientific writing because that’s how it’s done — but for me fiction is a fly-by-night, a flash (no matter how long the story), and the exhilaration comes from racing to catch it. So my post-it notes end up lurking behind the furniture, growing fur and becoming curly, until I finally realise how disgusting they are and throw them away. They do not speak story to me.
Pantsing, on the other hand, looks like a surefire way to write ten thousand half-stories. Does anyone finish a story that way? Just by starting something, writing, and ‘wondering where it will go’? It’s a brave way to go and I admire the adventurers, but I would not finish anything other than flash that way, and possibly not even a flash that I liked.
I have to know the story before I start, and it has to arrive fully formed, running like a little imaginary film in my head. I get clips; my art is to describe them before they fade, leak out of my ears, and float away to another, more functional skull.
I’m sitting in a desert at the moment, waiting for the flickering to start, like a heat haze, but signifying the coming of a tiny film, which will whizz by, daring me to catch its shape and flavour before it escapes.
I should use a Moleskine but I’m not going to, because again that doesn’t work for me. (Writing methods aside, £12 for a little notepad? Yez gan barmy?) No, I’ll stuff the back of an envelope into my jeans, and a Bic biro, and next time I look like I’m going to miss a story, I’ll scribble, ‘Mary, telephone, loser-Mum’, and if I can still decipher that when I get home, there’s a chance I might have netted something that’ll make the hairs stand up on someone else’s neck.
Just saying, there might be.
In other news, I like this post: Eat Your Lima Beans: The Importance of Becoming the Writer You Aren’t.
So if I don’t write something eye-boggling after the next ether drop, I’ll have to go back to Scrivener and pull up the last lot of fake, electronic post-it notes, and start the trudge. Oh my…
Someone pass the Bic, and please keep something crossed for me.