Having the ability to focus, to narrow one’s mind down to a specific task at hand is, for me at least, a very useful trait to have as a writer. I’ll generalize here a bit and say that typically, writers start with some kernel of an idea for a story. It might be a character, a place, an event, a concept, or even simple turn of phrase. They have one clear piece of information, which is surrounded by a great, hazy unknown of story. We then begin to coalesce that nebulous story into specifics. The character fleshes out to create a situation or a backstory which turns into a conflict, and develops into a plot. The great unknown begins to take some sort of shape, gathering definition, which will eventually become a very detailed form, the finished story. At some point in all of this however, the writer begins to write the story.
Personally, I tend to create a fair amount of definition before I begin to write, while others dive in while everything is still very nebulous. There is no right time to start writing in this process, it all depends and is unique to every writer. However, regardless of where one starts, there will yet remain an unknown amount of material to figure out. It can be distracting, frustrating, and downright annoying. We are constantly plagued with, “But what if…”, at which point, the thing which we had begun to give shape to, suddenly begins to lose form, becoming more uncontrollable, and it is easy to lose one’s way in the story. This is why it is important to be able to focus.
I plot a lot. I know my story in a fair amount of detail before I begin to write. I don’t know everything about it though. There are still things that remain up in the air, awaiting development. This is part of what makes writing fun and interesting. You can’t however, let it pull you away from writing. If you know what’s happening with the first three chapters, then focus on those and set the rest aside while you do it. I like to be very structured with my writing. It works well for me. I break my story down in halves, finding the midpoint between beginning and ending, then the midpoint between those halves, and then the midpoint between those halves, and on down until I have small, manageable fragments with which to work. When I’m working on one piece, the rest are, for the most part, out of my mind. Right now, I’m working on what is roughly the first fifty pages of Deadworld #3. I know exactly what is going to happen, though the how of it remains to play itself out. The rest of the story is just kind of out there waiting though. I’m not worrying about it, trying to change it, or to develop it anymore than it already is. I’m focusing on the small piece I know for sure, and directing all of my energies toward that goal. Letting my mind wander off into the rest of the story is too distracting, can create doubts, and detract from my writing progress. It’s important to me to stay focused.
This is all pretty specific to my process of writing, but I do believe writers can benefit from the idea of focusing on those pieces the know within a story. The unknown, while potentially exciting, can also be unnerving and disruptive. There are times to deal with that bit of the whole that remains to be figured out. When you’re concentrating on writing something specific, those are not the times. Thoughts? What ways do you have for dealing with those greater story distractions when you are writing a specific part of your story? Happy reading/writing everyone.