"E.L. Doctorow said once said that 'Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.' You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard." — Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)
When I began writing novels years ago, it was daunting. Every page felt so big and with every one I wondered, how can I possibly fill up 200+ of them and string along a story that makes sense? I was constantly thinking and WORRYING about the WHOLE BOOK.
Somehow, I managed to finish that novel. But that was really just me seeing a story through beginning to end. It wasn't a particularly interesting story, and if you asked me what the plot was, I'm sure I couldn't tell you.
Now, I understand the importance of plot. Weaving plots and subplots together is important, and takes time figuring out how to do it well. I still feel like I have a lot to learn with this.
But how I write a novel is different now. I take it scene by scene. With each scene, I ask, what do I want to accomplish in this scene - character development, plot development, or a little of both? I don't think about the rest of the book, I just try and write that scene to the best of my ability. I go along, scene by scene, until pretty soon, there is a part of a book there. And eventually, a whole book.
Isn't it true that usually when we remember a book we loved or a movie, there is a certain scene or two that sticks out in our head? We don't recall chapters or pages or how far into the movie we were. We say - I loved that scene...
Last week, I wrote a bunch of words trying to find my way into a story. Finally, Friday, I found it. Since then, I've written three scenes. I'm excited about writing more this week, each time, just focusing on the scene in front of me.
I'm curious - does E.L. Doctorow's quote resonate with you and your writing like it does with mine?