It’s always fascinating for me to listen to authors talk about their writing process, the way they reach that creative catharsis that results in a book. Or a story. Or an essay. Or a poem.
Some authors start with a character. This character can appear in a dream, or she can seep into the author’s subconscious, stalking the author until the author has no choice but to write her into existence. There is no plot yet, no specific outline of a story – just a character. Once this character is written, she takes the author by the hand (hypothetically of course) and leads her into the story. The result is the plot, the what happens, and it’s as much of an adventure for the author as it is, later, for the reader. It’s a process of discovery.
Other authors have the seed of a plot in their minds. They heard from a friend, or from a stranger, the intricacies of an event that were captivating, and that started the writing process. They explore the importance and ramifications of said event, look at the “what happens” and “how it happens” and then build characters to fit this plot. It’s still a process of discovery because even though the skeleton of the plot/story is known, the words that make the story real for the reader are discovered as the authors write their stories.
And then there are those authors who simply sit at a blank screen, or a blank page, and just start writing, letting their muses take them into the worlds they’re creating, without so much as a single preconceived notion of the final product.
It’s hard to say which is the best method, and I’m sure there are some people who swear by one method or another. I don’t think there’s a perfect method, but rather one that works best for you and for the given project.
In a piece of non-fiction, the plot is already known, so starting with a structure, an outline, might work best. If a character comes and doesn’t leave you alone (I’ve had these), run with the character until you get a clearer picture of the plot, and then go from there. If you don’t have either character or plot, but you want to write something, then write, and see where that writing takes you.
In the end, what’s important to keep the writing alive, the creativity moving, and the muses around, is to just keep writing. For a few minutes, a few hours – whatever. Just write. (INSERT the Nike “Just do it” commercial…) Write it down. Then revise it. Chop it up. Change it around. Add to it, delete from it. Mold it like you’re molding a piece of clay until the end result is just right.