I heard Stephen King interviewed recently. When asked about all the books he’s written, he said he wrote each in a fog, the stories unfolding for him as he went, and when finished, there was another image that would take shape and become his next book.
I found myself smiling and nodding as he talked. It is a wonderful thing to realize you aren’t alone. It’s even more wonderful when you realize you might have something in common with Stephen King. 🙂
I’m writing my 70th book. The first 69 are vague memories at best. At the time I was writing them, that reality was more real than my life. But once I was finished, there was another story waiting and I was sucked into that world, forgetting the last one.
It is a little scary the way the books take me over. In one of my books, I imagined a town where there is nothing but sagebrush.
In another book, I had to move Yellowstone Park over by a quarter of a mile. In my mind, it is still where I left it.
After so many books, I have accepted my process, as mysterious as it is to me.
I was recently reading Making Story: Twenty-One Writers On How They Plot and I was struck by how mystery writer Jeffery Siger put it:
Some days (writing is) an easy stroll across wide-open plains in soft summer breezes, others are a bare-knuckle struggle up a cliff face in an ice storm.
But if you keep heading west, you’ll find fresh, exciting characters along the way and plot shifts jumping out of trees. And every once in a while your characters might even trust you enough to let you write a bit of the story yourself.
It is the way the books come, painfully, a little at a time or so quickly I can’t seem to type fast enough, but never the same. I know I just have to trust that it will be all right. That’s the way I’ve written almost 70 books. It’s emotionally exhausting. There are times when I get stuck – usually in the middle when I can’t see the end – and I fear I will never reach the end.
I still don’t know where the stories or the characters come from. I have a friend who swear it is all fed to us from outer space and we are simply typists.
I keep thinking that the writing will get easier. That somehow I will feel confident about the book in progress. Or maybe the next one. That I will feel like I know what I’m doing.
But ultimately it is all a mystery to me. Like the great Stephen King, I’m in the fog of the story right now. I just have to believe it’s a book.