So, how did I write Lawrence’s story anyway? First, there was the inspiration. I was inspired by a real life Lawrence whose case was profiled in a nonfiction book, hence proving that reading ANYTHING can give you ideas. As I was reading Lawrence’s story, there were so many questions I had about this man. Why did he leave his native home? What did he do while in America before he went to the institution? I could not help but start filling in the gaps with fiction.
I took some notes about my ideas and then put them away. Over the next 24 hours, phrases started coming to me, the most notable being “blank cast iron numbers that whispered nothing,” which ended up in the story slightly altered. That was how I wanted to describe the grave markers.
Finally, after much thought, it was time to write. I wrote the whole thing in one sitting of about 1 ½ hours, making minor changes as I went along but trying to turn off my inner editor and just type. Typing generally works best for me because my fingers can usually keep up with my racing thoughts.
The next step was to post the draft as I originally typed it, hoping for suggestions for revision and a title. I also brought it to my writers’ group for critique 2 days later. I have learned not to be afraid of showing my work in rough form because it will never be perfect, and if I wait for perfection, it won’t see the light of day. I do, however, try to fix most typos and obvious spelling/grammar problems for easier reading.
I should probably mention that I really wanted to write the story shortly after taking my initial notes but I was in the car on my way home from Iowa and I get car sickness, so writing in the car is out of the question. I asked Hubby to stop and let me use his laptop, but he wanted to get home to our kitties and was concerned about how long it would take. I must say that being forced to wait until the next day probably helped the story percolate and develop further. I just had to jot down a few thoughts and sleep on them.
On Monday morning, there was nothing to stop me and I could unleash the writer in me. I got the laundry started and went wildly typing away on my desktop. I think being forced to wait kept me from getting stuck in the middle because I was forced (and had the time) to think about the whole thing, not just the beginning. Sometimes waiting to type is a good thing for me.
That’s not to say I rarely write on paper. This blog post’s rough draft was handwritten out of necessity. I went to switch on my mini laptop at my local McDonald’s (I don’t do coffee shops because I don’t drink coffee) and it would not start up. Thankfully, I always carry paper and a pen. I didn’t want to waste my writing time (or my free refills) so left-handed awkward scrawl it was. I just hoped I could read it later.
So, to review my process for Lawrence’s story:
1.) Inspiration can come from anywhere. Leave yourself open to it and always be ready to note ideas. Carry a pen or pencil and paper with you ALWAYS!
2.) Take thorough notes about ideas and thoughts or phrases you might use. I even keep track of names I like and words I think would be fun to use.
3.) Allow ideas to percolate and form more fully before diving right in if that is something that works for you.
4.) When ready to write, write without stopping. Anything can be fixed later. Turn off that nasty inner editor. I myself am getting better at this, but am not all the way there yet.
5.) Get your work out there. Show it to people. Ask for thoughtful critiques and opinions. Ask for help on things you feel a little stuck on.
6.) Let the work sit for awhile before you do heavy revision. Some distance can help you look at it more objectively.
I have now decided I want to write a whole series of stories based on the people profiled in this book, The Lives They Left Behind. It all started by going to the library and checking out an interesting book. Keep your eyes, ears, and mind open. Good luck! I will keep you posted on the rest of the stories that come out of this project. Feedback always welcome!