I used to have this idea that when an author wrote a book, he or she started on the first page, typed “Chapter One,” and wrote from the beginning to the end. Don’t they do it that way in movies?
A few years ago I started to try to write a novel, but I couldn’t get it to go anywhere. The story wouldn’t take off. I knew what the book was going to be about, who it was going to be about and how it was going to end, but whenever I tried to write, it always turned into a journal entry instead.
One day as I went about my housework and taking care of my family, this one part of the story kept coming to my mind. It wouldn’t leave me alone, and it was really bothering me, because it was a painful event. It was a sixteen-year-old girl sitting on the stairs at her grandmother’s house while her grandparents, mother and stepfather talk about her. They don’t know she’s there, and what they’re saying is basically, we don’t want her, and you don’t want her, so let’s send her to her father, even though he probably doesn’t want her either. As soon as I got a chance, after dinner was over and the kids were in bed, I sat down and wrote this scene, and the story took off. From that time on, I wrote whatever part of the story had energy. I skipped around all over the place. If it didn’t interest me or wouldn’t cooperate, I put it off. The first scene I wrote happens about two-thirds of the way into the book.
The day came that I had a lot written and it needed to be organized. I put this off for a while because I just wanted to keep writing. And it wasn’t as simple as putting it in chronological order, because I was writing flashbacks to the main character’s childhood. I had to figure out where to stick the flashbacks in the story. So I spent a week or two on that. It was a necessary part of the process.
I then made an outline of the whole novel with the parts that still needed to be written in red, so I knew exactly what I needed to do. I still only wrote what had energy on any particular day, and not in chronological order.