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It’s about the journey *and* the destination.

4 January 2013

The old quote “it’s about the journey, not the destination,” is at best misleading, and at worst utter bullshit. When applied to writing, that is.

Don’t get me wrong — the journey is valuable. You learn a lot along the way when writing a novel, or a screenplay, or a manifesto against the mole people. I don’t do much (any) outlining, and my form of plotting is a bunch of random notes jotted down and thumbtacked hastily to a corkboard in my office at home. I prefer to figure the story out as I write the first draft, then refine it over subsequent drafts. This is what works for me; I’ll nod to my usual disclaimer about finding what works for you and rocking that. My workflow is in no way intended to be the “right” way of putting together a novel, simply because I don’t believe there is a right way.

Putting together a story is all well and good… but plotting and outlining are a means to an end, and the end is finishing the damn story. Sure, you learn plenty of stuff along the way… but you do have to get to the end. You have to finish your stories, because that’s what writers do — we tell stories. Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And that last part is crucial.

Humans process most data in story form. We learn about history from stories — World War II began for America at the Pearl Harbor scene, had Hitler as the main villain, and ended on the atomic bomb. That’s not even remotely accurate, but it’s the picture a lot of Americans have of that war… because that’s an easily processed story. It’s why no one seems to really care about the current war in Afghanistan — starts off recognizably enough, but there’s no big bad guy, and no end to the story.

I know a lot of writers who have been working on the same story for a decade or more. Who have been reworking Chapter One for five years. They’ve lost sight of the destination, lost the idea of an ending. They’re the war in Afghanistan.

Writers tell stories. Stories end. End your stories, and you’re a writer. Let them drag on, and on, and on… what are you then?

One Comment leave one →
  1. 4 January 2013 0930

    I’ve definitely known a few of those “Chapter One must be perfect before Chapter Two!” people who gave up writing before ever seeing the second chapter. The Afghanistan analogy is perfect.

    I feel like a slacker ’cause I only finished a novella last year. But…finishing is what counts. In my wife, I have a great first reader. Not just because she’s a good proofreader, but because she refuses to read anything that’s not finished. I don’t get to talk about stories on our walks. I’m allowed to talk about issues I may be having or about my progress, but she and I know that once you tell a story, there’s something in the brain that’s like, “Ahhhhh…got my fix! And…without all that work behind the keyboard! I’m gonna make Chris tell everyone about this story, instead of actually writing it.”

    I’ll usually have a couple people read the first 3-5 chapters of something I’m working on…then, they don’t get to see it until it’s a readable draft. Fortunately, a few people keep asking, “How’s that novel coming along?” so I can’t sit too long without feeling like a slacker.

    Then there’s you, who writes novels in his sleep! 😉

    Wake up…STRETCH…”Oh, what’s this?” you say. “Ah, I appear to have written my ninth novel!”

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