Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Letting a Story Develop

“Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can’t -- and, in fact, you’re not supposed to -- know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing.” -- Anne Lamott in bird by bird.
This is exactly how I create a story. After a flash of an idea enters my mind, I either start writing, or, if the idea is still fuzzy, I spend a day or two thinking about what I might write and taking notes as ideas pop up.

My last story began with an image of a soldier’s wife standing at a window watching as two Marines got into a car and drove off. I asked myself questions about the setting and the woman and provided answers. I didn’t worry about the order, or if the question/answer pair was important to the story. I couldn’t. I didn’t know what the story was yet. As with a Polaroid, sections of the story developed independently of each other. When I was done, I had a first draft, plus a couple of paragraphs of ideas I didn’t include in this version. Next, I moved, cut, and add sections of the story until I reached a point where I felt the story was ready to be critiqued. I don't remember the exact number, but this process included five or six rewrites.

Today's quote validates the process I use to write a story. And that's a good thing, because I don't know how else I'd do it.

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