Excuse me? What?

Twenty-seven years ago today, about 2:00 in the morning, I became a mom for the second time. Our eldest son was born. He was a tiny thing, not even 5 pounds in weight. So short, we could put his head in the palm of our hands, his little feet coming barely to our elbows. But he was fine, healthy and full term. I could launch into a tale of woe about how hard the labor and delivery was, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

Writing is a little bit like giving birth. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. A story is part of the author, just as a child is. It comes from the imagination, blooming, growing and blossoming into the finished product. The characters grow and change just like a baby. From infancy, they have their own quirks and personality. They make decisions and do what they want.

I know some of you probably think I’m talking through my hat here, but it’s true. I’m always proud when my characters take control and tell their story the way they want. I think that’s why I have so much trouble writing even simple non-fiction things. I don’t have the help of my characters. It’s all me—and honestly, I’m not that smart and talented. (Okay, I am…. But one must pretend humility from time to time, mustn’t one?)

Some of the questions I like to ask my guest authors on my radio show focus on their approach to writing. Do they outline? Do they know the outcome before beginning? Do their characters take over and write the story for them? Have they ever been surprised by the outcome?

To answer these questions myself:

I never outline anything. My stories go where they will. I make notes and keep them in binders on my desk. I should invest in post-it notes because I use so many of them, I could float a third world country.

I rarely know the outcome of my stories. I might have a general idea of where I want to go, but usually it goes in a completely different direction fairly early. One novel went so far off the path, I was stunned. I’d started out as a mystery/ romance novel and ended up a paranormal romance instead. Weird!

Do my characters take over and write the story for me? Constantly. Sometimes they give it back near the end, but generally they keep control. This is probably a good thing cause they get me into such big messes, I can’t find my way out without help. It’s embarrassing!

Am I ever surprised about the outcome? Yes. That’s another constant, like the characters writing it for me. Once I relinquish control, it’s anyone’s guess where the story will go.

So, I said all that because I wanted to tie having a child to writing a story. I also want to wish my son a Happy Birthday!!

Dellani Oakes is a slightly confused and not quite but almost entirely crazy author for Second Wind Publishing. Her books “Indian Summer” and “Lone Wolf” are available at http://www.secondwindpublishing.com, Amazon.com, Smashwords and bn.com

© 2011 Dellani Oakes


Filed under writing

10 responses to “Excuse me? What?

  1. wordsfallfrommyeyes

    Happy birthday to your son – and keep writing because it’s a good post 🙂

  2. I am not sure men can relate, but giving birth is the perfect description of writing. The transition phase, the roughest one, is the publication process. Then there is getting out there with book launches, signings, showing the baby off. Each stressful in its own way. Once you recover, you think, “Maybe I should have another one.”

  3. Dellani, for me, writing a book is not so much like giving birth, but more like RAISING a child, if that makes any sense. Its future depends on so many things. Learning, through experiences, what they are told, what they observe and other sources of input, changes all through their lives and helps mold them. Sometimes by the end of their lives, little is the same as it was originally. That analogy certainly fits my writing processes.

    As far as outlining, it didn’t work for me either. I started writing my mystery book and then found I was wasting time getting off on tangents. To correct this, I sat and pondered the general direction I wanted to go in, and continued on. That method worked and, after many rewrites, I now have a published book. My baby.

    • I used to outline, but I’m not doing that in my WIP. Instead I have certain scenes in my head that I am writing and we’ll see if I can pull them all together. This is new for me and I’m finding the experience to be really freeing.

  4. Happy Birthday to your son! And I am the same way. Sometimes, it takes a bit of negotiating with my characters to get the story back on track, but that’s only if the story is taking a nosedive into nowhere. Other than that, I just sit back and let them play. See where the story goes. it might actually turn out better than what I originally had thought it could be. 🙂

  5. dellanioakes

    Coco, that’s an apt analogy! Coco, good luck with sales!

    Nancy, wishing you the best with your new book!

  6. Thank you, Dellani. Sales are going well so far.
    Nancy, I too, wish you the best. The key, just keep going.

  7. Nice post and good comments. And congrats on the past 27 years with your son!

  8. Pingback: Another Great Blog to Bookmark! « Bertram's Blog

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