Shut up and let the subconscious do the driving

Not quite as much writing this week due to being out of town over the weekend, and then having to stop and mull over “what should happen next.” Although I have lots of story ideas for my various characters, I still have to decide what, if any of it, I should use, and I took a couple of mornings out this week to mull.

I’ve gotten far enough into the story now that I’ve settled on about four point-of-view characters and don’t feel the need to jump into the point of view of every character like I did when I was first starting out. So I’ve been alternating between the four, writing a scene for each which advances their story. Early on in the week, though, I finished up a round of scenes and realized I wasn’t sure what should happen next to my main character. I’m kind of “meh” on the stuff I outlined.

So I spent a couple days going through all the material I had on the characters, picking out what’s next for each of them. One scene ahead is as far ahead as I really want to think here. Which leads to a more rambly, meandering first draft admittedly, but I think, in the end, a much better story than one I could have outlined in advance. The best ideas occur to me spontaneously, and I have to give them the time and space to do so. I came up with a lot of good ideas in the past year that way, but I have to allow that there might still be something better buried in my brain.

One thing I do know is, the actual act of writing, getting into the real details of character and plot, can often prove the ideas you had ahead of time are just not workable. And if you have this whole outline based on those ideas and have to ditch it, that work is suddenly moots-ville.

I tried outlining ahead of time, I really did. But in the end, that’s not how my brain works.

Original fiction project – week of 01/10/2010

The story continues, some of it matching my outline, some of it not. And I’m content to let it go wherever it feels like going. It’s still tough, every morning, picking it up and working on it when I haven’t bonded with the characters and I don’t know who they are, and nothing feels like it’s going anywhere…yet. That’s the downside of not outlining in advance–the story kind of sits and languishes or something until you start getting a sense of the characters and what’s at stake. I outlined and planned and plotted a lot of “at stake” ideas, but in the end, the story has to write itself, the characters have to tell it, and as the writer, it is my job to find the story and the characters.

This is a vulnerable time because you can just feel like setting it aside for something more interesting or set it aside hoping something will come to you–anything except slog on, waiting for the emotional connect to the story to happen.

But that’s why I’m writing updates in here and sending them to a coach–to keep me plugging on until my drive to write the story is coming from the story itself, and not simply my inborn need to be writing something.

Maybe it doesn’t exist

Okay, you want to know what the most difficult subject to research on the interwebs is? “Scientists in fiction,” and “fiction about science.” I am trying to get a list going of novels and short stories that depict believable (or not-so-accurate) scientist characters, the scientific process, or scientific labs in contemporary fiction, that are not science fiction. But Google and LJ and Amazon keep reading that as “science fiction.”

Maybe there are no contemporary novels showing normal, everyday scientists (in a realistic or uninformed fashion). But I don’t believe that.

ETA: Or, you know, graduate school as a setting in a fictional story, as opposed to graduate schools for writing fiction.