The Creative Process

processSometimes when I tell people I’m a writer they ask me about my process – how do I write. I find it to be a pretty funny question, and I often tell them that all I do is sit at my computer and type. Like I’m doing just now.

It might sound like me being arrogant, but it’s not. I don’t outline, I don’t make plans. I just write.

It all starts with a vision… can I call it that? An image, a sound, a conversation. A whisper. And that becomes a scene, and I replay it in my head, over and over again, always adding more, until I have something. It’s just a glimpse of something or a glimpse of nothing… only time will tell.

I always write my stories in the way I first imagine them. I don’t write them chronologically, then mix chapters up, I don’t write one point of view after another, then mix them up, I don’t skip chapters to write certain scenes I’d very much love to write (actually this is a nice trick: imagine you’re stuck mid chapter, and there’s this scene that takes place a few chapters after that which you’re dying to write. Don’t. Force yourself to get there… the anticipation of writing that particular scene makes the road less bumpy.)

So, yeah. I often have this vision of where I want my story to go even before I write the first sentence. Most of the times, I already know the ending. Half of those times, the ending is different from what I imagined when I started writing the story.

The thing is… a lot of stuff happens as I write. The journey changes my perception of what the story’s all about. My characters take a life of their own. I get to better understand their motives, and thus the plot takes some unexpected turns.

There’s one more thing here: I’ve been in the business of writing stories in my head for more than 8 years now. I have “completed” several novels this way. Playing with the story, going back and forth, back and forth, until I know everything there is to know. But I never write those stories – the ones I know everything about, because there’s no motivation for me to write them. Like that thing with the roads less traveled, or something like that.

Also, I used to tell people about my ideas… tell them about the plot and characters, and then I’d lose the drive to actually write the story. Why? Because, in a way, I had done my job. I shared the story with someone. Just one or two people, but I had done my work as a storyteller. Might sound strange to you, by I’d say it’s best not to tell too many people what your story is all about. Just tell them enough to make them curious, that way they’ll keep asking you about it, and you’ll keep writing until you finish it.

Someone once asked me for advice on writing, and I said that they should write in the simplest way possible. That doesn’t mean that we should all write like Hemingway. No, because what’s “easy” or “simple” for me might seem like just redundant prose to you.

Two people seeing the same thing will never use the same words to describe it.

So, yeah, I use the first words that come to my mind. Just like Stephen King, I hate thesauruses, and I don’t use them. If I sometimes use certain words that feel, dunno, complex or something like that, it’s just because I use them very often in Romanian and it happens they’re the same in English.

Like me using the word lamentably. I’m not sure if it’s a common word in English, but in Romanian it kind of is.

I strongly believe that with every story we write we learn more and more about the written word and how to use it. We find that we like to use certain words, that we like to write about certain situations or themes. We find a voice of our own. I know I said it before, but I think this is worth repeating: writing is not about saying something no one else has ever thought of saying, but it’s about saying something in your own voice.

So, yeah, if you want to say something… do it like only you can.

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