While I’m finishing up the editing on my second novel, Picture Perfect, I’m also in the midst of developing two new story ideas for future novels. This is actually one of my favorite phases of writing. The discovery phase. This is the stage where I explore, wonder, imagine, question, read, create and do pretty much everything except write. I’ve learned to give myself lots of time to allow my story to unfold in my mind before I ever start typing.
One of the stories I’m developing, I actually started writing a couple years ago, but I set it aside in order to focus on finishing my first novel, Hollywood Ending. This new story is set in Paris, so I’ve been dreaming about Paris, re-visiting memories of my travels there, poring over my pictures of The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and all the other amazing and iconic landmarks a City as ancient and storied as Paris has to offer. Last night I re-watched Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and I’m looking forward to filling my Blockbuster queue with more fabulous films set in the City of Light. I have Juliette Sobanet’s Kissed in Paris on my Kindle, waiting to be read, and guide books and phrase books at the ready to transport myself six thousand miles. And the best part? It’s all research for my novel.
If I could afford another trip to visit Paris in person, I would do that, too. But, I’m on a budget these days, so I’ll have to make do with my memories, photos, films, and books to help with creating the setting. But when it comes to the story, I like to let that unfold in my head. Despite having started the book a few years ago, the story is still undeveloped. The characters are all there. The premise has been formulated. But I’ve yet to discover the story. The winding tale that will fill three hundred plus pages of prose.
There’s a lot of talk about “pantsing” and “plotting” in the writing world. I consider myself a reformed “pantser.” I used to just sit down at the computer and let the story flow from my fingertips. The problem with that was that I didn’t know what I might be writing one day from the next. I went wherever the story took me. And it often took me to some pretty amazing places. But it also led me down a lot of meandering paths that ultimately went nowhere. As a result, I wasted a lot of creative energy typing when I should have been using my imagination to simply explore.
These days, I let my mind wander for a good long while before I ever write anything down. Oh, I keep notes, mind you. I jot things down in a small notebook. Whatever pops into my head. Sometimes it’s plot-related. Sometimes it’s character-related. Sometimes it gets tossed. Sometimes it gets developed even further. That’s the beauty of the discovery phase. It’s a step in the creative process that allows one to use the most creative energy, simply allowing ideas to blossom and mature without the constraints of a plotline or character arc. Pure creativity. I love this stage.
But it’s easy to let the discovery phase take over. There does come a point when you have to start organizing all those wonderful ideas. And I call that the planning stage. I’ll talk about that more in depth when I get there. For now, I’m just enjoying the freedom that comes with discovery. And the joy of immersing myself in a world of wonder.
Do you have a discovery stage, too? What’s your favorite part of the creative process?