In the dark
For me, the most exciting moment of writing is before the story takes shape, when you’re still poking around the idea to see if it moves. It’s the time of figuring out if there is a story to tell. There’s no guarantee of an outcome. In the best case, you will have stumbled across something interesting, in the worst, you’ll have spent hours writing without having an outcome. Luckily, writing is as much about the process as it is about the outcome. Spending hours, days even, on writing scenes and dialogues that will never make it to the novel is somewhat liberating, even more so in a world obsessed with efficiency and productivity.
Most often, this phase comes before the first draft, before I begin to tell the story to myself. Occasionally, though, it comes when I find myself in the dark. Going back to the basics, exploring side stories, writing down character testimonies and spying on them outside the main narrative is ridiculously satisfying. It’s only afterwards, when I realise how much of the story will have to change, that frustration kicks in. If a book was a house, you would constantly have to tear it down and then build it up again. No wonder that writing a book can take years.
This is definitely the case with my next project, a story I’ve been trying to tell in various ways and shapes, only to realise I must return to the drawing board. Never mind that the 4th draft is pretty solid, when your gut feeling says the story is all wrong.
Skipping this phase could lead to a good story, though almost certainly not a great one. I’m almost certain the reader will notice the difference between the two.
How about you? Ever read a story that left you in the dark, wondering what it was all about?