A couple of months ago now I started a new novel on the drive back to CBS from Aspen Cove. It was a story that had been in my brain for a couple of years now and I had lots of first pages. But it never seemed to click with me. Then, that day we were driving past Carmanville when what the story needed hit me and I jotted down the first couple of pages. All the way back, I wrote and wrote until I knew my character well enough and I learned something quite surprising about her. I could see it all unfolding before me.
But when we got back I had edits to finish for my agent and then got back to revising something else I’d already finished (two something elses, actually). But I felt okay with not getting back to New Novel because I knew what it was going to be. And besides, I had already written so much on that drive.
So yesterday, when I decided to type up all I had already written of New Novel, I got out my current notebook to look for the pages. I was shocked to find only two and a half pages. Not big pages. Just 9×6 in pretty big scrawl. I searched through the notebook a couple of times because I knew I’d written more. I remembered multiple scenes and conversations. I knew at least six characters.
It was then I realized I had written all the rest in my head. Something had stopped me writing in my notebook but not me writing in my brain. I do that. If you see me you might think I’m staring off into space or watching TV but I could be listening to a conversation between two characters in my brain. I might be figuring out why a character did something so strange. I often write when walking, especially when I’m wearing my headphones. And then, eventually, I will get them all down on paper. Sometimes pen goes to paper or finger to keyboard, and the story takes a turn I didn’t see coming. But even if they change once they find their way to the page or they never actually get inserted into the story at all, these things I write in my brain are important. They let me know my characters better and can solidify my feelings for a story. And that’s what every story needs, isn’t it–a writer who knows and loves the story and the characters, no matter how flawed those characters are.
If you’re a writer, I hope you get so much done in your brain that you’re surprised to find only two pages actually written when you get back to the story. And if you live with/know a writer, remember that staring into space might be writing. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.