Writing A Novel: A Self Study Of Me…
At the suggestion of Robert McKee from his book, STORY, for more than a month now I have been carrying around stacks of plain, white 3 x 5 notecards and writing nearly everything I can think about on them. That is as it pertains to the process of penning my first novel.
For several years now I have made it a regular practice to carry with me a sketchpad. Some day my daughters and dear friend, the former Ms. Julie Nelson, are going to find them tucked a way and find out more about dad than they ever realized was going on in this head of mine. Actually, that will probably fill in a lot of gaps with them as to where my brain was when they said I wasn’t talking so much and seemed like I was somewhere else.
But for the past month, I’ve converted over to the stack of notecards and various rubberbands sectioning off a pile associated with this, that and whatever else it is I’ve uncovered, realized or thought about either in the form of research, “What if…” exercises, and plot ideas.
More importantly, there’s also been stacks of cards associated with WHO I AM. Whether I was writing this book or not, those would be invaluable to me.
Back in 2008 or so on a plane ride to somewhere up east I did a similar exercise and listed out all the roles I was playing in life, things like son, husband, brother, father, writer, painter, blogger, etc. (See yesterday’s post for this exercise.)
But through my own devices and hints from McKee, I’ve come to realize that in order to write a convincing story, I’m going to have to dig deep into research, and not just research into the technical nature of places and things that are going to be in my story, but most importantly, I’m going to have to dig down deep and find out what’s inside of me.
So here’s what I did and what I encourage you to do, whether you’re reading the blog to see what I’m up to or if you’re on a similar journey to write a novel, short story, novella, play, movie script, whatever. You need to find out first and foremost who you are.
On separate 3 x 5 notecards, write out the answers to the following two questions:
Who am I?
What do I want to be remembered for?
This exercise from today and the ones to follow should take you DAYS to work through and there are dozens of other questions I’d suggest you spin off from these. If you’re serious about writing, if you’re serious about doing something positive and helpful for yourself, I suggest you go to Walmart and buy three or four packs of black 3 x 5 notecards. (They’re like $0.84 at Walmart and $1.99 for the same thing at Albertsons.)
When you get home, out on the porch, are sitting in the middle of Chick Fil A, Cracker Barrel, Panera Bread, Firehouse Subs, or where ever it is you go to perch, (I don’t drink coffee, so I took Starbucks off the initial suggestions list but if you do, put it back on) take out some blank cards, make sure you’ve brought a good writing pen–my favorites are ones from bedside at hotels–and write the question at the top of the card and start writing what comes to mind on the card. When you fill up the front of the card, start a second with initials of the question on the top of the second, with a number 2 and keep answering the question. And keep going and going and going card after card after card.
Remember, this is a journey, not a sprint. This isn’t a one afternoon activity and it’s time to start writing something. So don’t rush this. Whether you ever get to the point of starting a book about an adventure you want to share with the world or not, just doing this introspection will tell you things about yourself you do not realize right now.