Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Chicago Story: Writing While Riding

Having to spend twelve-plus hours this weekend riding in a car to and from Chicago, I figured it was an opportune time to work on novel number two. While I did not work on it as much as I could have, I did roughly double the length of my manuscript, and I finally was able to get through that scene that was giving me trouble and preventing me from moving forward. Sometimes, you just have to take the time that you have been given and get the idea out no matter how it turns out, because you can always go back and make it better later. After all, that's why it's called the rough draft.

Since the novel is set in Chicago, and has some relation to my personal experiences (although it is not directly based on them), spending some time in the Windy City and retracing my steps around my old neighborhood gave me just the inspiration I needed. While I haven't forgotten my experiences, it was a good idea to refresh my memory and keep the pictures that I have in my minds eye sharp and clearly focused.

However, it not only helps for describing the scenery and the people, but also for reminding myself that I have done it before and can do it again: I wrote my first novel while riding the El to and from work. Going back and riding the trains and seeing the sights, and feeling echoes from the experience of going on an adventure with the woman who became my wife, helped me to get back into the right frame of mind. 

It is kind of funny that I wrote my Ohio book in Chicago, and that I am writing my Chicago book (mostly) in Ohio. I have a feeling that this won't be the only time that I will need inspiration to continue writing before I am done with this book. I would like to make it out again sometime this summer--maybe next time the trip won't be so last minute and I will actually have time to visit some old friends.

Because my TV and internet are out at home (a fun surprise when we got home last night), and AT&T is sending a new router overnight, I suppose I will probably spend my night adding what I wrote over the weekend to the manuscript file. I do this regularly so if a tragedy happens and I somehow lose the notebook I won't lose everything. 

As always, it won't be an exact transcription. I often add and change things--make improvements--as I am typing it out. In that way, I suppose, I am technically, to some degree, editing as I am writing, which is why I like writing my first drafts by hand and then going back and typing them. I often do this with my short and short short stories, as well.

That's why I am a strong proponent of doing what works for you and not following some formula, which is what I teach my students. I, of course, suggest different ways of doing things, but I leave it up to them to figure out what works. Different strategies work for different people, and no one way is truly correct.

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