The Five Stages: Part 1
So, I’m starting a new book. Also known as a manuscript or a work in progress—which it becomes the minute you type a sentence. Or part of a sentence, depending upon your philosophical bent.
This book is very different in a lot of ways from books of the past. It’s the first one without my agent on board. After three and a half years, we agreed to part company. She packed up the kids in the Winnebago and drove off.
Okay, the Winnebago part sounded funnier in my head than reading it probably is. The point is, we split up. It was hard and it was sad and it was for the best. And when it’s not as fresh, I may blog about it.
The world is now totally my oyster—I don’t owe 15% of it to someone else. Until I get a new agent, that is.
But for now, I thought I’d write about the five stages of writing. Like the five stages of grief, except that it’s never done so you don’t eventually make your way to acceptance. You always doubt. You always know, deep down in your heart, that it could be better.
It’s like road construction … it’s never finished.
But anyway, the five stages of writing are:
And before we embark, know that there is no single answer for any of it. Lots of ideas. Lots of decisions. Lots of work. Lots of three-word sentences. We’re not going to get through all of them tonight.
I’m pacing myself.
Part the First: The Idea
Stephen King said that the writer’s job isn’t to know where ideas come from, but to recognize them when they show up. I’ll add to that. Write them down. Or record them. But keep a record of some sort because they flee as quickly as they come.
I have been in the completely unenviable position of working on something, knowing exactly what I should write next, lingering over a phrase and losing that knowledge forever. Somewhere, perfection is in a bar saying, “I tried to hook up with that guy but he was too darn slow.”
Hell hath no fury like an idea left waiting.
Once you seize upon the idea, nurture it. Twist it like taffy. See what it’s capable of. Seriously. Slaughterhouse Five was just a nerd imprisoned by the Nazis until Vonnegut took it for a test drive. Then all of a sudden:
Billy Pilgrim became unstuck in time.
It’s a first line right up there with, “Call Me Ishmael.” Or “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”
It all started with an idea.