Updated: Oct 10, 2020
When folks discover that I am an author, their most frequent response is “I’ve always wanted to write a book. How do you do it?”
Since I could write a thirty thousand word thesis on my varied processes, it is a challenge to choose the most succinct method and answer their question in five minutes or less. Normally, I spit out some random advice about starting with a daily journal. Not a bad way to begin, but certainly not always an appropriate one.
However, one method described to me by a nine year old fourth grader is by far one of the most efficient ways to write a story that I have come across.
Billy (not his real name) came upon his method quite by accident, but is no less exuberant about it than if he created it on purpose.
With enlarged smiling brown eyes, Billy excitedly explains how he writes stories utilizing dreams which sequentially occur anywhere from seven to ten nights in a row.
It works like this:
The story starts out based on a random dream from one night. He writes down as much as he is able to recall, then fills in a few made up details.
The next night, while sleeping, he - within his dream - wonders what happens next and picks up where he left off from the night before; upon awakening, he then writes it down, adding to the first night; and again, adds contrived details to give the turn of events some color.
He continues this same exercise every night until he is satisfied the complete story has played out and he has the entire necessary content.
As this young man described his method to me, I could not help but think how genius is this method? Furthermore, admittedly, I am a bit jealous that I - a published novelist, ghostwriter, and storyteller - didn’t think of it myself.
Billy has had no conscious exposure to the concept of lucid dreaming - a real thing that people fork over big money for workshops in order to learn how to do it.
Lucid dreaming is your chance to play around with the extraordinary abilities buried in unused parts of your brain. Regardless of whether you are superhuman in real life or not, lucid dreaming is a way one can put the deepest areas of the brain to good use while snoozing. You can be a Jane Doe while awake and Superman when getting your Z’s. All the obstacles of reality can be set aside as you make trips to the sun or the interior of the earth, or test your craziest science experiments on your worst enemies.
My own writing process depends upon the project. I have a very different and specific one for ghostwriting, and a much more loose yet just as committed work path for writing novels. Ghostwriting always has a tight deadline and involves at least one other person. It is more structured and I do not veer from it. Ever. Well, I take that back. I did deviate once. And two years later, the project is incomplete. I have learned my lesson the hard way. When writing novels, although I adhere to an editorial calendar, I vacillate between research, writing, tiny edits, coffee breaks and long hikes (I’m writing in my head while trekking through the woods) during the creative process.
But Dear Hearts: whether you’re a genius dreamer who utilizes Billy’s plan for writing a story, super creative, or you journal every day for a year in order to produce a book as a result . . . . . . Processes matter. Learn to remain true to it.