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Guest post by Judi Ryan Hendricks

May 30, 2009

Today’s guest post is from author Judi Ryan Hendricks. Her newest novel The Laws of Harmony is one of my favorite reads so far this year. To find out more about Judi and her books visit her website here. Please help me in welcoming Judi to Stephanie’s Written Word!

All writers get asked about their process.

Some people want to know if you write in your pajamas.  If you use a computer or a pen and paper, if you have an office or work at the kitchen table.  In the morning or late at night.  I think if you’re a writer (meaning a person who can’t not write) none of that matters.  You’ll write wherever, whenever and however you can.

But there are other people who ask about your process and what they’re really asking about is the creative impulse.  Where does the story come from?  How does it become a book?  That’s a totally different question.  What they’re interested in is nothing less than The Great Mystery.

I’ve always thought of stories as free agents.  They exist on their own, independent of writers.  My job as a writer is to find the story and tell it.  Or maybe “discover” is a better word.  “Find” sounds as if you could walk out your back door and stumble over a story lying on the ground, whereas “discover” implies work.  The way you circle around an idea, looking at it from different angles, digging through the irrelevant muck, peeling away the outer layers of superfluous information until you reach the kernel of truth that becomes your story. 

The process isn’t some cerebral, theoretical preparation that you do in your head before you begin to write.  It’s not a matter of sitting down and making an outline of events or diagramming character arcs or plot points.  The process is writing.  You put pen to paper or fingers to keys to find out what happens.  You write to discover the story. 

It’s a bit like going on a road trip with no map.  You may have a vague idea where you’re headed…or not.  You expect to make some wrong turns; you know some roads will take you out of the way.  But one of them—and you might not recognize it until you get there—is going to take you exactly where you need to go.  And you discover (just in case you’d forgotten) that the journey is the destination and the process truly is the story.

I’ve written four novels now, and one thing never seems to change: every time I begin a new book, it’s like the very first time, and I have to learn all over again how to write.  But the experience of writing has been completely different for each book.  I think maybe this is because of the organic relationship between writer and book, the way they affect each other, the push and pull of the intangible force of the story. 

What it all comes down to is simply this: each book is a unique adventure for all concerned.  The writer—just like her characters—and just like the reader—is not the same person at the end that she was at the beginning.  The book that you finish is not the book that you started.  That’s what’s so amazing and engrossing and frustrating and exhilarating about the process of writing.  And that is why, so long as I can see the computer screen and prop myself upright in my chair, I’ll probably never stop.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 31, 2009 1:08 am

    I haven’t read any of Judi’s books yet, but I bought 3 just the other day. One of those was The Laws of Harmony. I loved how Judi expresses herself in this post. I’m not a writer, but I know that feeling of ‘circling around an idea’. That’s what I loved about doing research papers in school. I would never have thought to describe the process so fluently and beautifully. That’s one of the things I like about reading is having something I’ve experienced put into words by a gifted writer. Thanks, Judi.

  2. May 31, 2009 10:53 am

    This is a lovely post and I really like the analogy of writing as being like a road trip without a map- that you just have to start and trust that you’ll get there. I love Judi Hendricks and the way she expresses herself! Great post!

  3. May 31, 2009 11:01 am

    I haven’t read any of Hendricks’s books (yet), but this is a lovely post. She’s not the first writer I’ve heard say that the writing process is completely different for each book, but the thought is both scary and encouraging.

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