Happy Friday, novelists! Today’s post will be rather shorter than usual because I am currently on the road traveling.
Of course, it occurred to me that this is great opportunity to consider how we might use the time we spend going from one place to another to benefit our novel writing process.
Now it might seem that writing a novel is completely antithetical to any sort of personal movement. We imagine novelists locked away in solitary attics, far away from noise and distraction.
While the bulk of your writing probably does happen in a quiet space away from the crowd, some of the work of novel writing can be done on your morning commute, waiting at the doctor’s office, or during your weekly errands.
You know that one scene that you can never make work? Maybe the dialogue doesn’t sound quite right or you can’t make sense of your protagonist’s motivation. And no matter how much time you spend looking at it, the problem just seems more and more entrenched.
Sometimes these issues are best solved away from the page. If your mind is primarily occupied by something else (for me it’s often driving), you can often come at your difficulty from another angle. You have the opportunity to wonder (not plan) about the possibilities.
Of course, don’t daydream too hard, especially when you’re behind the wheel of a car. And write down your ideas when you’re stopped.
A favorite pastime of every writer! Personally, I’m a chronic eavesdropper. I love overhearing bits of conversation at coffee shops and in the grocery store and waiting in line at the post office. I’ve gotten more than a few decent story ideas that way and the beginning of a novel.
And it doesn’t have to be the content of the conversation that provides inspiration. Sometimes it’s a distinctive speech inflection or a gesture–something you didn’t even realize you needed for your character.
We’ve talked quite a bit about research already, I know. Being out and about can be formal or informal investigation, depending on your need. For example, this current trip takes me through parts of the country I’ve never been before–parts I’d like to be able to write about confidently.
And you don’t need to go on a cross-country road trip to accomplish this. It could be taking a walk in a different neighborhood or visiting a park on the other side of town or driving on local roads instead of the highway. You also have the opportunity to engage with people. Ask questions. Listen.
Do you work on your writing on the go? If so, how?
About the Author: Julia Patt
Julia Patt, Contributing Editor, from Chestertown, MD, is a graduate of Sweet Briar College and the MFA program at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, where she was a fiction editor for The Greensboro Review. Her young adult novels—i was a fourth grade zombie slayer and Through Waterless Places—were both shortlisted for Mslexia’s 2012 Children’s Novel Competition, and her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Surreal South ’11, Stymie, and PANK.