When I write a story, the first thing I do (this will surprise you) is write the story.
It’s not that I pay no attention to spelling or grammar or stuff like that–I’m a fairly fastidious person where such things are concerned–but it’s not my prime objective. At the beginning, I just want to get the story down.
Once I’ve made this first trip through the story, I set it aside. A few months later, I’ll pull it out and read over it. This pass is always interesting–and a little embarrassing. I find a lot of typos. Oh well. What’s embarrassing is how many things I was thinking at the time of the writing that somehow didn’t get typed by my fingers. Words are missing and sometimes entire lines of dialogue. Or, I’ll be thinking ahead for days that, “At this point in the story, X needs to happen.” I think about it so much, my brain tells me it’s in there and I don’t realize until this second pass that I never actually wrote it in. I might even have later events that refer back to X … which would be a lot of fun for readers: “Where did THAT come from?!?!”
And then, after the second pass, the novel sits on my computer and in printed form for months–sometimes years. I pull it up and read it over now and then, always making changes, which usually get smaller and smaller as the years go by. A little tweak in the dialogue here, an addition to some descriptive text there. And sometimes (as with “First Time” and “The Nice Guy”) I’ll actually rewrite the whole thing. The original’s firmly in my mind, but it serves as more of a guide than a hard and fast rule.
So, this summer (as has been mentioned in other blogs), I wrote another story about Bat Garrett from the years before he met Garison Fitch. It was a story whose basic plot points have been in my mind for decades, I just never could get it down on paper (or computer). Finally, back in May, it just clicked for me. And it was exciting writing it because, for the longest time, most of my writing has been in the re-writing stage. This was the first entirely new story I had tackled in a couple years. It was exciting because while I knew the big story, a lot of the details came as surprises to me. I love that part of writing. The part where the story is so strong that it’s telling itself and I’m little more than a stenographer.