I've mentioned elsewhere that I don't really feel like I wrote The Book of Beings. I know that sounds strange. I mean, my fingers did actually type out all the words that now make up the series. But when I hear other writers talk about what it is like to write a book, it sounds like they picked out a car, got in it and drove. It sounds like they were in charge, like the story went in the direction they wanted it to go, like maybe they'd even planned out where it was going ahead of time. And it just wasn't like that for me at all. It was more like I was walking along, pretty much minding my own business, and a car swooped up alongside me and offered me a ride. Except there wasn't anyone in the car. So I got in, and I sat in the driver's seat, and the car took off. Other people probably thought I was driving the car, but I wasn't. The car was driving itself.
Really. I started out with a few ideas of what I wanted The Book of Beings to be like. But if I wanted to know what was going to happen next in The Book of Beings, on a moment by moment basis, I had to write the next scene to find out. And as I did, it was like somebody was giving me dictation. That somebody sounded like Manon in my head, since I was writing in her voice, but I know it wasn't Manon. (Manon is a made-up character, I hasten to remind myself.) I guess I'm just going to have to remain agnostic about who the somebody was.
You know how the plot structure of The Book of Beings is somewhat, well...complicated? With all the set-ups and pay-offs and plot twists and all that? I can't even tell you how many times I was writing a scene and the plot just revealed itself to me. Like I'd have written something earlier, and I'd have no idea why I'd written it, and then it turned out that I'd put it there because it was set-up for the pay-off that was about to happen. And I'd think, wow, that was really clever. Except it wasn't me who was being clever. I'm definitely not that clever.
So now, here's the thing I'm wondering: is it like this for all fiction writers, but there's some secret pact that they've all made to pretend like they're in charge of their stories when they're actually not? Or are all those other writers really driving the car and it's just me who's strange?
I described all this to a friend once, and she told me that Anne Lamott had described something similar in Bird by Bird about how when she wrote, it was like there was a little man inside a box who just kept handing her cards telling her what to write. Well, I've got a copy of Bird by Bird here, and I've sort of flipped through it, and I can't find that part. I can find a whole bunch of parts that make it sound like Lamott's pretty much driving the car, though. I tried googling it too: "Anne Lamott little man box cards." Didn't get too far with that. So for now, I'll have to remain agnostic on that as well. And/or reread the darn book. (Which it's totally worth rereading.)
What about you? Anybody else out there willing to come clean about how they weren't driving the car either? Or maybe someone could just quietly take me aside and tell me to shut up so as to not give the secret away?