Coming Unstuck


From WORD PAINTING by Rebecca McClanahan:
When Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim was asked about his creative process, he replied, "If you asked me to write a love song tonight, I’d have a lot of trouble.  But if you tell me to write a love song about a girl with a red dress who goes into a bar and is on her fifth martini and is falling off her chair, that’s a lot easier, and it makes me free to say anything I want."  As we’ve already noted, it’s hard to write effectively about a large abstract subject – grief or anger or love – without first "sweating the small stuff."

I’ve come to the realization that I need to sweat the small stuff 
a bit more before continuing to draft my new project.
I don’t know enough truths about the characters and their lives.

So it’s off to my notebook for further discovery . . . 

I’m curious about the rest of you:
how do you know when you know enough about your story to begin writing?


11 thoughts on “Coming Unstuck

  1. This is a great question. Most times I’m so eager to get to the story, I convince myself that I know enough for the first draft… get started… and stall.

    But there is something to be said for allowing the story to reveal things about your characters.

    You know… I don’t think I really answered your question. Oh well.


    • “Most times I’m so eager to get to the story, I convince myself that I know enough for the first draft… get started… and stall.”


      I’m trying to be more patient and give myself time to know a bit more, but it’s hard when you just want to get words down on the page.


  2. I usually don’t start writing until I have a complete outline of the plot and the characters. This outline may change when writing but I can’t start without it.
    I hope you discover marvelous new things for your draft!


    • I know lots of writers work that way, and I can’t seem to do it. That’s okay, we all take different approaches, but I would like to have more figured out before starting. It’s frustrating having to stop and contemplate how much I do NOT know.


    • I thought of you yesterday as I scribbled notes. I don’t know my ending, and don’t think I will until I write some more. But I do need to know more about the characters in order to continue; otherwise I’ll be writing in circles.


  3. Once I’ve put those first interesting thoughts for a story on pages of paper, I stop. I have names, careers, etc. Then I create a page for each one, listing as many facts about each person as I can. And I continue to update it, if needed, as I go along.


  4. I’ve done both – I’ve waiting until I knew all sorts of details about my character and plot and I’ve started to write with no idea where it was going. I think the second way is more the norm for me. I have a character and I have an idea and I don’t think about the small stuff. I just followed them around and write down what they do.

    But…I know very specific things about the character and I have a very specific idea about the plot. Now that will likely change in the process of the writing, but it gives me a pretty good place to get started.


    • Susan, I thought I was in the place of knowing specific things about the character and plot. But then I hit a wall. So now I’m taking time to know more about the character and plot, and then will continue.

      It’s an always-changing process for me.


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