Since every writer’s process is different, and since we each take pleasure in different aspects of the craft, I asked the group at Maine Crime Writers this question: Where do you find the joy in writing? Below are their fascinating replies.
Maureen Milliken: I find the joy in actually doing it, and the more I write the more the story works itself out and becomes clear to me. The discovery part just blows my mind.
Chris Holm: Nothing gives me a bigger thrill than when my characters do something unexpected. I live for the moments they take over and surprise me. I suspect that’s why I’m not fond of outlining: I’m a junkie looking for a fix. I’d rather fly without a net than go a whole book without once getting that jolt.
Susan Vaughan: I sweat out the first draft, but seeing it come together as I get past the middle is a triumph. Even more, (don’t hit me), I find joy in the revision process, tweaking scenes and making the wording sing.
Lea Wait: Simply … I love making something (a story) out of nothing … or, perhaps, more correctly, out of bits and pieces of places, people, ideas, history, nature … it’s like making a patchwork quilt. Individually the pieces may be bright, or dull, or contrasting .. but stitched together in the right way they can become (when the quilt or story works) art. That’s always the challenge .. to find the right pieces and put them together in the best way possible.
John Clark: Since I’m not a plotter, most of my books and stories are created as I’m writing, so I’m entertaining myself and discovering things much like I hope readers will.
Kathy Lynn Emerson: Good question, Kate.
Since I don’t plot much in advance, I’m always thrilled and energized when pieces fall into place and I suddenly know what happens next or why a character has been acting in a certain way. Those “ah-ha” moments can make my day.
Vaughn Hardacker: For me it’s those times when the story takes over and I just type along behind!
Dorothy Cannell: “…From being invited into the world of my characters and encouraging them to surprise me.”
Barbara Ross: I’m with Susan. I love revising. I love the feel of rounding the bend and seeing the finish line in the distance. I especially love it that when revising, so often you discover that somehow, during the first draft, you’ve subconsciously stashed characters, scenes and settings away for later, unaware of how critical they would turn out to be.
Brenda Buchanan: Hi Kate, great question. When I am writing I feel most like my true self. That is not to say I find writing to be easy. But it is my most comfortable psychic habitat, where I am most at home, and that brings me joy.
Jayne Hitchcock: Just writing brings me joy.
Kate Flora: I’m with Chris—it’s those surprises that I live for. Those moments when I have a plan and my characters have another, and they simply take over. I also love those moments Barb Ross refers to when you discover that unconsciously you’ve laid the groundwork for how things will end up. And yes, Jayne and Brenda, just writing gives me joy. Especially first draft, when, as John notes, I’m discovering the story the way my readers will. And may I put in a plug for research? Making those discoveries that help bring my characters alive and give me the small, telling details?
And now, readers and writers out there…please join the conversation. What brings you joy?
The sudden realization that there’s a story appearing out of random scribbling.
Thanks for a core reminder. You (all) said it. It’s the writing itself, the editing, the fun patchwork, the unexpected turn of character that no one but me is pivvy to in that moment. Then, there’s peace and completeness (joy?) after a solid writing session – confirmation that I am in the world exactly as I should be.
Good discussion. Yes, it’s seeing the story come alive before your eyes. And then looking back, after it’s revised, and saying, “I made that! I made that? How did I do that?” (This balances out the days that your characters are standing around doing nothing at all)
It’s comforting to know that so many others enjoy those aha moments, when the characters and plot bring surprises and suspense.