When I started writing fiction, I thought I needed to know where I was going.
Some writers work that way, I know, but for me that notion died quickly. And it dies a little more with each book.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t completely wing it as a writer — I do a lot of thinking up front, lots of dreaming, and sometimes a bunch of prewriting and rough outlines. But more and more when I start writing I find I discard the notes, toss the outline, and set out for another shore entirely.
Even revision is not clear cut. You’d think by then I’d know how each scene goes, but if the revision is a big one (like the one I’m doing now) lots of days I’m just dancing in the dark.
The darkness still scares me. Some days it’s a struggle to sit down at my desk and face it. Part of me feels that if I were a real writer I’d have a plan, a map, a flashlight, for goodness’ sake! But even in revision, I don’t necessarily have any of these things in hand.
Today, for instance, I was working on a scene whose arc and purpose eluded me — and yet something was telling me to stick with it. I worked in the dark almost the whole time, went down several blind alleys, stumbled and fell. And then, in the very last paragraph, my character said something that illuminated everything that came before. I finally understood what the scene was really about, and why it was important. And oddly enough, I had to make very few changes once I knew.
Just because I saw the light doesn’t mean the scene stays, of course. Maybe in the next draft it will go. But it’s moments like these that keep me writing. Even in the dark.