Writing life, Writing quotes

Headlight writing

Whew, life and work have been packed these last couple of weeks so I haven’t posted like I’d hoped. Here’s a writing quote to start the week, though:

“It’s like driving a car. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” — E.L. Doctorow


One of the things that intimidates me most about writing a novel is the sheer size of it — 100,000 words is nothing to sneeze at! I’ve been thinking of it in terms of the proverbial “eating an elephant one bite at  time,” but like the headlight analogy better.

When your headlights are the only thing showing your way, you see really well right in front of you, then see fairly well, then the light fades into darkness. You might know where you’ll end up eventually, but can’t see what lies beyond that immediate pool of light. I’m learning that it’s often the same way with my writing.

I’m what I consider a semi-plotter — I map out the general story and have an idea of how I want things to come together, but don’t go through the steps of chapter summaries or scene one-liners.  I see where I am, which is the brightest pool in my headlights. I have a good idea of how I want my current scene to fit with the next, which is that area that’s still lit but not quite as bright. I know how I want it to all end, which is the final destination. But all sorts of unexpected things pop up along the way that I didn’t anticipate — that’s what lies in the darkness just past the headlights. 

As long as I focus on the immediate pool of light — my current scene or chapter — but keep the final destination in mind, I can keep plowing through the story without getting too far off track (or at least  hope so!). Then when I look back I’ll see all the distance I traveled and realize that it wasn’t so daunting after all. I just need to take it one mile marker (or chapter) at a time.