I began writing fiction in a meandering way, based mainly on the relative ease with which I made progress and accessed my imagination, when I was about 13. I wrote highly infrequently in those years between 13 and 18, experimenting occasionally with poetry, short story and very short fiction pieces. None of those forms have energized me beyond novels and perhaps memoir, however. I’m not certain why, though I suspect it has more than a little to do with my overly logical sense of the world. I have no trouble generating imaginative (I would say 😉 ideas so long as there is a framework for them to fit into.To that end, I’ve worked on a total of four different novels now since I began committing to the idea of writing more than casually about eight or nine years ago. Two of those projects and one non-fiction run have taken root, but I recently discovered something about writing which eluded me for years. In school I asked some authors and researched others to find out how they did it. I wanted to know what I needed to do to get where I wanted to go. I was not looking for an outline, only pointers and suggestions for avoiding mistakes, but I invariably found that their ideas didn’t work for me. I plowed along, attempting this or that method of controlling my work – setting an amount of time to write for example, some say an hour each night, some say a minimum of four each morning, others say limit what you do so that you never exhaust your flow. Hemingway used to recommend (or say – I’m not sure that he gave ‘pointers’) that a writer should end in the middle of a sentence each day, such that they could rejoin the flow immediately upon return. Wrong. That didn’t work either, though I diligently tried.So I dropped it eventually. I gave up wondering how it was to be done, and I just went about it in my own haphazard way. I write as often as I’m inclined, and occassionally I force myself if I know it will be good for a project that’s adrift – but I’m not good at self-flagellation. Then, just the other day, I was working on a plotting project for a novel in progress and discovered that I was thriving on the energy and I was making progress. Not a first, certainly, but the first time I’d stopped to notice. Then it hit me: I’d found my method.I won’t go into too much detail here, but generally I need structure to lead me. It sounds so unromantic, true, but there it is. Ginsberg wrote Howl on one long writing binge, fueled I’m sure by genius and narcotices – but not everyone can do that. I begin a project with an idea, usually one sprouted from wherever they originate (I don’t question). From there I will usually write as many as 15 pages in one sitting or a few quick sessions. Blindly, passionately, and without attempting to edit. After that, in the past at least, I would flounder. I wouldn’t want to write, I’d lose focus, forget the genesis or the thread of the idea, etc. Then, on these most recent two projects I’ve begun, I found it.With each I began as usual, but then looked ahead to what might come next – in terms of the non-fiction project, this was easy. For the novel though, that meant corraling my ideas and assigning them a sense of continuity. This comes before this. That after that. It worked. Each time I sit to write now, I know a direction only – few if any details – and I head that way confidently, unworried about wasting my time or losing my thread. After i’ve blazed ahead for awhile, I reassess the continuity. Rinse repeat. I’ll keep to myself how great a pleasure and sense of purpose this imparts, but suffice it to say, I’m ready to proceed now.