Someone once likened beginning a fictional work as being similar to approaching a blank wall. A wall that has no windows and no doors, and yet your job as a writer is to get to the other side. And I think that is a very apt description. Where does one begin? I may have vague reflections of misty characters flowing around me, but what do they say? And how do they say it? What do they care about? What causes them to wince? What makes them laugh?
Of course, sometimes the job is easier and the characters flow across the page with bossy pronouncements of what makes them upset, or exactly what they would like to say. In instances like this, I am challenged to listen carefully, and try to keep up with the story unfolding within me. But, generally, these moments are gifts of sudden inspiration which occur randomly, and infrequently.
More often, at least for me, I am required to listen quietly to catch the current of story or character that is unfolding. My process then is to make a quick ‘sketch’ of the direction the story-line is taking. Usually this piece of writing is very ‘skeletal’. Once I have completed ‘telling myself’ where the story is going, I will re-write the whole section several times, each time filling in, shadowing and high-lighting the story with words and phrasing much the same way an artist would layer the detail onto their paintings.
My novel No Story to Tell was written with a combination of these methods. Actually, I never intended to write a novel at all. My intent was to–‘create two characters and a conflict, and write a paragraph’– an assignment for an evening writing class. As soon as my pencil hit the paper, however, I was swept away, trying to keep pace with the words flowing through my head and onto my page. Clearly, someone had something they wanted to say . . . and had apparently been holding their tongue for quite some time!
So who, or what part of me, was that which spilled the story forward at the first sign of a blank page? Certainly it was not the ‘conscious’ part of me. I had never had so much as a glancing thought about the characters, or the story which was now barging into my life. I was continually surprised by new characters and plot twists. Several times over the course of writing my novel, when a previously unforeseen situation presented itself, I said, “Well now, I wouldn’t of thought of that.”
I believe No Story to Tell emerged from a place deep inside of me. A place deep within my sub-conscious mind, where the novel could incubate and grow free of my conscious mind’s internal censors. It truly was a story that demanded to be told. All it required was for me to listen carefully, get out of my own way, and be disciplined enough to set the words down on the paper. I wish I could say that was as easy as it sounds. It wasn’t.
No Story to Tell was not always an easy novel to write. There were times when I would have quit, if I’d been able to. But I wasn’t able to. The process of writing it both challenged, and changed me. It is my hope that those who read it will be inspired toward positive change as well.