Friday, June 12, 2009

The Eight-Stage Writing Arc

Eight psychological stages in the creation of a work of long fiction:

1) Trust. There is no preconception at this stage. The dominant emotion is nervous anticipation of the journey ahead.

2) Excitement. The characters and events begin to emerge. There are too many possibilities to hold in the head at once. But all the possibilities that do emerge seem to be strong.

3) Progress. The story is being formed. Chapters or a treatment are written. At the end of every writing session the word count has leaped forwards.

4) Crisis. The story gets stuck. The way forward is unclear. Long walks are needed. And the support of other writers. (There may be several stages of progress and crisis. Many novelists get stuck thirty to forty thousand words into the story. They have entered Act 2 and can't yet see all the way to Act 3.)

5) Vision. The last crisis is over. The way forward is clear.

6) Desperation. The end is in sight. The story is there in the back of the mind, but has not yet been told. At this stage, it will not let the writer rest. It never completely leaves the mind, from the moment of waking in the morning to the moment of sleeping at night. And it seeps into dreams. Carrying the story is exhausting.

7) Relief. The story is written - at least in first draft. It is out of the head and on the page.

8) Pride. Editing the story. It is improving every day. The writer finds passages that seemed mundane in writing, but now have obvious and surprising quality.

I am presently at the "Desperation" stage with the White Angel sequel. It is exhausting me. But it will be over soon. I'm so consumed with the film that my blogging is somewhat less consistent than it has been. Normal service should be resumed in a week or so once White Angel 2 is out of my head and on the page.


Paul Lamb said...

I am deep in stage 6.

LizR said...

I too am in the desperation stage. The Germans have a great word that means slide which is "Rutsch." I am now into that final Rutsch to the finish line :-)

Rod Duncan said...

Ahh... it seems a pattern is emerging. If it turns out that all writers of long fiction are in this same stage, then I may be able to rationalize my oriinal 8 stage idea down to a neat, compact 1 stage arc.


Margaret Penfold said...

I am in Stage 4 with one novel and stage 8 with another
My problem with the Stage 4 novel is smaking a decision as to the cut-off point. I need to decide where I am ending before I continue so I can get the curves right.
My problem with stage 8 is the reverse of yours. Every paragraph seems commonplace and I am attempting to glamourise and add depth. I also have another, more intractable problem - trying to make the non-fiction historical bits believable to people from varying backgrounfds who can't see beyond their own myths without irritating them too much. I think it would help if I could pretend that I was Canadian or Swedish.