Writing a novel is, at heart, all about making shit up.
That phrase–making shit up–became the constant refrain of my Mapping the Novel workshop at the Sitka Center last week. (It was the BEST workshop ever, mostly because of my wonderful students, but also because of the fabulous staff and the spectacular location. I could go on and on.)
In order to write a novel, you’ve got to make a lot of shit up. You just do. But then you have to shape the stuff you made up into some kind of form. And that was the premise of the workshop–that you’ve got to let your right brain roam free but also learn the structures through which you will corrall it.
It is easy to get hung up on any part of the process (she said, having experienced getting hung up at many points along the way). But bear in mind that structures are part of craft and can be learned. You can study plot, scene, character, style, and theme. It’s hard, but you can figure out how to apply it so you make a novel with a cohesive whole.
What is harder, arguably, in this day and age, is the making shit up part. It’s the part where we let our brains run free, and allow our hands to follow them, putting word after word on the page–even when we don’t know where the words will lead us.
The making shit up part is why we become writers. I mean, who sets out to write a novel because he wants to master plot? There may be a few of you out there, but I’d wager a bet that most of you want to write a novel because you’ve experienced the glory of writing, how good it makes you feel to lay down those tracks.
The making shit up part is fun–and its also sometimes really freaking hard to get ourselves to do. But really, all you have to do is go do it. Take a prompt, any prompt, set a timer for 10 minutes and go write! Do it now. Go make shit up. You’ll be glad you did.
Leave a comment and let’s discuss your favorite way to make shit up.
**I had a couple of great photos from Sitka picked out to go along with this post but some reason, WordPress doesn’t want to let me upload them. If you want to see a ton of them, go to my Instagram page (and follow me while you’re there–it is one of my chief social media outlets).