I managed to talk Laura Anne Gilman into coming and posting today. If you’ve never heard of her, why not??? She writes fabulous books both under her own name, and mysteries as L.A. Kornetsky. She’s also been an editor for some major writers. Now, without further ado, the meerkat herself:
So, Di Francis came to me and said “hey, you want to write a guest blog for Magical Words?” And I froze, somewhere between “yeah, that’ll be fun!” and “oh shit.” Because hey, Magical Words, a writing blog. And yeah, I’m a writer, but I always find myself in a bit of a pickle when people ask me to talk about the deep down fiddly bits of actually writing, because I’m a centipede.
— the joke going that the centipede can walk perfectly well with a hundred feet, until you ask it HOW it manages all those feet. And then it can’t. –
When I say that, often those people look at me oddly (more oddly than usual) because for god’s sake, Gilman, you’re a writer and an editor, too! You teach this stuff! Shouldn’t you be able to break it down at the drop of a pencil? And I shake my head and shrug and say “not about my own writing, no. “
Everything I know about the craft of writing? The moment I start a novel, I internalize it, shove it into my backbrain, and don’t let it get in the way of telling the story. Open the spigots and direct the flow, don’t dissect it.
And occasionally the person who’s asking me exhales, like I just yanked a fifty-pound weight off their shoulders, and says “oh thank god, me neither.” And I laugh in sympathy, because yeah. There are a lot of writers who can tell you exactly what they’re doing, and why, and break it down in terms that would make an MFA candidate cry tears of pure joy. And then there’s the rest of us.
Some writers like to talk about what they’re writing, analyze and dissect every step they take, and some of us just want to get the damn thing done.
And I’m here to tell you that that’s okay.
The inability to talk about how we chose a particular structure or frame, the deep-tissue dissection of our theme, or even how we chose the narrative view doesn’t mean you don’t understand what you’re doing, or that you’re not making your choices carefully, with full knowledge of what you’re doing.
And it doesn’t make you any less serious or talented a writer.
So when someone says to you “so tell me about your writing process,” look at them and smile, and say “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”