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Monday, September 22, 2008

fiction, it’s all in my head

Do you write in your head? Or do you only write on paper?

There are people that say that you’re not writing unless it’s down on paper, but I think that writing in your head (a.k.a. daydreaming) can count as writing if you are actively working on a story. For me, there’s a time for writing on paper (or typing on the computer), but before that, there’s a time for letting an idea simmer.

In the beginning, writing things down on paper can be discouraging for me. It’s not just a rough draft, it’s a big dose of horrible. When I get a story idea, I might write down general thoughts, or even a character description or dialog, but most of the heavy work is pondered out in my head before I can start writing. Does anyone else do this?

For instance, in my current WIP, I know the general idea/premise for the book, and who the villains are (remember the Steves?), and I thought I had the beginning figured out. I wanted to start writing, I really did, but something just didn’t feel right. I let it percolate in my head for another day, and I figured out that the beginning scene is actually the last scene in my book; I was starting at the wrong part of my character’s story. Or maybe this is just the prequel to the story I was originally thinking of.

The next day I started writing it (finally!), and it was awful, as any rough first draft should be. However, by starting to write the first scene, I was able to work on it a little more in my head while I was sleeping, and now I have a much better opening (same scene, much better writing, showing instead of telling, more emotion, etc).

The first line in my WIP is now: Chocolate, I needed chocolate or I would die.

It’s still rough, but it’s much better than the first draft drivel I penned the day before! Plus, who doesn’t like chocolate?

The benefits of writing in my head are obvious to me. The drawbacks are too. Sometimes I get so consumed by trying to work things out, that I never start writing, and if I never start writing, then I can never have a first draft to revise, or a final version to submit to an agent or publisher. I think the benefits are worth working this way; I just have to make sure that I push myself to the writing it down stage.

How do you write? Is fiction all in your head too?