Friday, 7 August 2009

'The Story Road' From Conception to Deliverance- Linda Strachan

Having just finished my latest book the process is fresh in my mind. Everyone approaches writing in a different way but for me it seems to be surprisingly similar from one book to another. Let me tell you what it is like.

There is that first single idea, one that begs to be noticed, a spark that glitters in my mind tantalising and tempting. Like a crystal it grows little by little by adding fragments and details until it almost has a life of its own.

At the start of the story road it is exciting and blissful, I can’t wait to find the means to get the words down, any words, to evoke the emotion, scene, character or whatever this little spark consists of. It begins to grow by revealing itself almost like a child’s magic painting - a wet paintbrush reveals a hidden image already embedded in the paper, invisible until released by water. The story seems to be already there waiting for my words to change it from thought to book …

Its progress is varied, at times fast then slow, running and hesitating in unequal measures as it climbs the hill creating itself, tumbling from my head onto the page. Building in the details of the back story, the scenes and the characters, developing the tale it has to tell.

For some reason, always at what seems like three quarters of the way up this hill it stutters; hesitation turns to pause, pause to full stop and stop to despair.

All at once the words, the delicate ideas, that gem of a story turns to ugly disappointment as I re-read and reconsider - take a pace forwards and then three backwards. Perhaps it should it all be thrown away and another new and better story started instead.
More than an errant child, this is a useless idea, something that has lost its way- words that had previously seemed to be spinning a magical tale have, just as magically, changed into a stale boring piece of absolute rubbish. The little bit of talent for writing, that I had begun to believe I had, has deserted me and I am convinced that nothing here or perhaps nothing I will ever write again will be fit for anyone to read, far less enjoy.

This, the most trying time, persists for a while until I get annoyed because I realise I have spent all this time in useless endeavour. I abandon it and walk away, wandering off to do mundane tasks, anything but face this wreckage that was my wonderfully exciting and enchanting idea.

But a stray thought appears about how the story might be changed, if I move this bit, or perhaps I discover that one character is actually envious or devious or about to walk off the set completely. I am driven back to work, not utterly convinced but since I have gone this far I feel I should at least try to rescue it, and myself.

Refusing to give in to the little voice in my head that says it is all drivel, I plough on relentlessly up the hill that has now become a mountain - until all at once the sun comes out and reveals the summit and I can see the perfect ending waiting in the valley below.
I rush down the other side towards the finish with sheer delight, or is it relief?

It is done, at least a first full draft. The story and the characters have all taken shape and the circle is complete. It has been wonderful and excruciating at different times and although it still needs a little final editing and polishing, for now I can rejoice, draw a sigh of relief at my deliverance, pour a large glass of wine and relax - until it is time to hit the story road again.

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Lost Wanderer said...

Thanks for sharing your process. It's fascinating to read how different yet similar most writers' experiences are.

I usually find that something I wrote previously could be changed, but then don't want to start messing about in the first draft, trying to edit, so I plod on, and leave major changes for the second draft.

Yunaleska said...

Thank you Linda - your process sounds very smiliar to mine :)

Nick Green said...

The idea of writing being a natural, organic process (cf your crystal metaphor) is a powerful one. Often it seems like you have to follow certain pre-existing lines of weakness, like the grain of wood or stone. On one level you are the sculptor, but on the other, the material dictates quite a lot about how it can be sculpted, and one needs to listen to it closely.