The real explanation for that long delay in George R.R. Martin's next book?
I wanted to lead with this link because it seems very plausible--the long and short of the hypothesis being, maybe George R.R. Martin didn't plan where he was going as he wrote, and so now he has no idea how to wrap things up--but also because it's the exact opposite of the way I write. Not that I am terribly important. I just like discussing the writing process, because it's not the writing process; it's whichever procedural thingamawhats work for you.
Lately, as previously mentioned, I've had some ideas simmering in my head--a good bit of world-building, a number of characters, a voice I think I could write fairly easily in--and I'm sitting here with a possible opportunity to do something with it. Sometimes I think in terms of one-off novels, but... rarely. I tend to come up with series ideas, because I come up with characters I like and then I want to do lots of things with them, whereas I suspect single novels tend to be more about an idea or a specific theme. I mean, not that stand-alone novels don't have great characters, but that the idea was what wanted most strongly to be told. I have an idea for a single novel--probably about 2/3 drafted, actually--where I really like the characters, but... I'm not sure I want to tell any other stories about them. It's very based in this riff on an older legend; what most attracts me is an idea, a concept. I know what the final scene will be, and I love the idea of that scene, and it feels like the completion of the idea to me.
Which brings me around to what I was actually trying to get around to, which is that I'm a big-picture person. Again, the point here is not so much to share with you the ~*magical inner workings*~ of how any one person writes; it's to point out that different things work for different people. And what seems to work for me is that I start daydreaming about a character, or a situation, or a place, and those daydreams ramble on until they start to kind of take shape. And once I have enough--usually a good enough idea of the characters to know what they might want to do--I start trying to reach out for the end of the story. Like, literally, the final page of the book(s). I can actually tell you what the last two lines of this new series are going to be: it's a first person narrative, and the heroine is going to sign her name, and what she signs--well. It's not going to be the same name she would sign at the beginning of the story, let's put it that way. And the series is about how she gets from the first page to the name that she signs at the end. And I know that if she has this problem over here, and this aspiration over here, those things are going to need to be resolved--happily or not--by the end of the series, but not entirely before the end, you know? Frodo is not going to throw the Ring into Mount Doom halfway through the Two Towers section, you know? So I tend to sit down and think, what does this character want to accomplish--or, as one of my professors used to say, "What is the so what of the story?" Why are you telling it? So I decide that, and I start mapping out vague points of what we might want to do to get to that last page. The example I always use is that it's like planning a trip--I know that I want to go to Venice, but I don't quite know how I'm going to get there yet. Oh! Obviously planes are going to be involved! Or perhaps boats, if you have a lot of time on your hands. So tickets must be bought. That's the kind of logical progression I'm talking about. If you have a romance, do you want to have a meet-cute, or a long-term friendship, or people getting swept off their feet, or months of pining, or misunderstandings, or sassy banter, or sudden realizations, or what? How do these things usually play out? Okay, now which parts of "how it usually plays out" do you want to keep and which ones do you want to change up, which tropes would you like to subvert, to keep people on their toes? And then maybe you get to that part when you're writing and you write it differently anyway on the spur of the moment, because that's what you and/or your characters feel.
And this is where people show up and go, "You know, you are really robbing yourself of the spontaneity of discovering things," or "But if you're just going to change it anyway when you do discover things, why did you bother planning it?" But that's how I think. It's fun to me--energizing. (And I actually do leave myself a lot of room to explore--my outlines always have a lot of holes in them--and I don't map out tropes as rigidly as my examples would suggest.) I just have to suppress the urge to go find someone and blurt it all out at once, is all.
And other people like to take unplanned road trips, you know? They like to get on the road with no idea of where they're going and just drive--have an adventure. At the same time, it's hard to know when you're done, when you do that. And when you feel done--that's when you turn around and go, "Well... crap. We still have to get back home." Any process has pitfalls, and you have to deal with them no matter what you end up cobbling together for yourself.
I don't know. I kind of feel like an idiot now. Apparently this Zoloft decrease has made me more prone than usual to shooting my mouth off and then feeling stupid about it afterwards. My point is, if it does work for you, then it's a good process. "Process" isn't a monolithic thing that you can do "wrong" if you didn't learn to do it "right," which a lot of people seem to get anxious about. So.
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