What Now?

In yesterday’s morning quote, I shared one from Tom Clancy that has typified my writing experience to date:

“Two questions form the foundation of all novels: ‘What if?’ and ‘What next?’ (A third question, ‘What now?’, is one the author asks himself every 10 minutes or so; but it’s more a cry than a question.) Every novel begins with the speculative question, What if ‘X’ happened? That’s how you start.”

The “What now?” question is the one that keep resonating in my mind, as Mr. Clancy says it should.

I don’t know if my experience is typical of all writers, or even any other writer than myself, but I find myself writing a scene, then sitting back and asking, “What now?” Sometimes something comes to me right away, especially if the next step is obvious. But sometimes it doesn’t come right away. Then I step away from writing, either literally or figuratively, for a while to let my “muse” (a fancy word for my creative subconscious) work on it. Believe it or not, getting into one of the MMORPGs I play occasionally helps my muse come up with something. Sometimes I even start quizzing my friends about what they think should come next, but that’s often a last resort for me. It’s just how I am, I guess.

Anyway, one way or another, something sparks an idea for the next scene, and then I sit down and write that. And then comes the next “What now?” moment. The whole sequence starts over again, and repeats through the writing day.

Along the path of the story, I’m guided by what I know of the characters I’ve created. I ask myself how this person would respond, or how that person would deal with the situation. Though sometimes the characters surprise me, in general they help me tell the story of their adventure. And what would a good story be without a few surprises along the way, even for the one telling the story?

Am I weird for writing this way? I don’t know. All I know is that it’s the way it seems to work best for me at this stage in my writing “career,” (quotes because you can’t really call it a career until you get paid for doing it) and that’s really all that matters, isn’t it?



Filed under Writing

6 responses to “What Now?

  1. It’s a similar process for me, though I don’t hesitate to ask my friends for their thoughts. Even if I already have an idea of what I want to happen next, I’ll summarize what has happened thus far, then ask my friends what they think will happen next. It’s a good way to find out what your readers might expect and how you can surprise them.

  2. Pingback: Grinding It Out | A Bookwyrm Writes

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