I love listening to podcasts about writing. I love listening to interviews with successful authors. I love engaging in conversations about writing and knocking ideas around. And lately, there has been one common theme in most of the discussions I’ve had or listened to. That’s the notion that you have to know all the things about your story from the get go. Or at least others expect you to know certain elements right away. As in, you shouldn’t even be writing until you know what your book is ULTIMATELY about.
I’m calling bullshit on that right here and now.
I got into a conversation recently with another writer who started drilling into the deep nitty and gritty of my current work in progress. He asked me questions about what the theme was, what’s the point, why does this happen? What does my character learn from it all? Why does that happen? What’s the point of that plotline? And why does character b kill character e?
I came to a conclusion later on. I appreciate help and these discussion are always valid to helping someone get down and dirty with their story. But there was one problem. I didn’t have all the answers and I found myself scrambling in the conversation. The thing is, you don’t need to have all those answers from the beginning or even halfway through. Saying that you should, basically implies that you don’t know what you’re doing. I think this is where many writers get hung up and confused. And most of all, intimidated. They think they have to know everything or they aren’t good enough to be descent enough writers.
This breaks my heart.
I often only have a story from one scene to the next. Then I go back and fix things like theme, or the ultimate point of it all during the first, second, and third revisions. Sometimes, I like allowing the readers to knock around questions like, ‘what is the theme of this story?’ rather than doing it myself. Because quite frankly, I find questions like that belong in English Literature 101 classes, and not in my books.
If I have a scene in my mind, I have a story. And that’s all I’m really after. At least for the first few drafts. A story. It all comes down to telling a good story. I don’t think you need to have all the answers right away. Nor do you have to have them when you finally get to the end. You can incorporate things as you go.
I’m might never be a best selling author. I might not be a New York Times Best Selling author. I’m might never reach the income I want to from my writing. And I certainly won’t be everyone’s flavor when it comes to my stories. But saying that there is a ‘proper’ or ‘correct’ way to write puts a really nasty taste in my mouth.
You don’t need all the answers. And in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I say just write.