This is the third part of a ten part series on the process of producing a novel.
In the past I have compared writing the first draft of a novel episode to eating Tiramasu – or any other sweet that one absolutely adores. This is because, at least for me, writing a fictional scene for the very first time always produces a rush of satisfaction similar to a heavy dose of sugar/chocolate.
The most delicious aspect of writing anything for the first time is the excitement of not really knowing what the end product will look like. Even though I always know what I intend to write, I can never be sure where the creative process will actually lead me. A finished first draft is always full of surprises: unexpected developments, witty repartee from my characters or maybe just an unexpectedly vivid image.
Obviously, there are bad days when these unexpected plot changes or a head strong character lead straight to a dead end. I have been known to write a large chunk of novel only to be brought to an abrupt halt by the realization that I am not where I want to be. Curiously, sometimes I have fun writing even these scenes, but usually when I wander too far off course, it is like getting lost -- or eating too much of a particularly heavy desert! --and I end up feeling frustrated or angry with myself.
Fortunately, such misadventures are comparatively rare. It is far more common to find myself on a delightful journey into a new and wonderful place. As the story unfolds, I feel I am as much an observer as a creator. At one level, of course, the novelist is the person recording the story and translating the ideas/images/emotions etc. into a form that can be transmitted to others. On another level, however, the novelist is just a tool of a greater creative force, the servant of the idea that is the novelist’s inspiration.
Thus, when I plunge into writing an episode or scene for the first time, I have the pleasure of anticipation; I know I’m about to experience something new. The writing itself sweeps me up and absorbs me completely. The images and emotions I am describing envelop me. The words flow onto the page with little conscious thought. And then I sit back with a sense of being full and satisfied – just like when one finishes a piece of hot apple pie.