Exploring the Terrain
“It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E.L. Doctorow
Did you know where your novel would end? How the story would unfold? Students, book club members, and most people, who have read my work, ask me these questions.
And my answer is always the same. I never do.
This is strange coming from an obsessive-compulsive planner, but my actions and behaviour at my day job and just about everything else I do are completely separate from how I pursue and practice my craft.
My new projects start with something that catches my attention. A question or two usually follow. Why? What if? What would happen next?
And off I go. Exploring the terrain, I take in what I’m able to see in the shadows: a character’s shame, fears, and hopes. Slowly their motivations come into view. And their story unfolds.
It’s not a quick process. In fact, I have to be incredibly patient, more so than what comes naturally to me. My eyes remain wide open for every turn because along with impatience, I also suffer from night blindness. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it can be a great journey. I remind myself of this whenever I fear what’s ahead.
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