Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Andre Dubus

Do You Write Vertically?

The ‘Net has a gazillion “tips” on writing—do this, don’t do that—unanchored bits of advice that can lead you straight into the pointless forest…

I found an article on The Millions that could give you a powerful way to find your own writing “rules”—Gestation of Ideas: On Vertical Writing and Living.

I’ll share a few quotes, along with my thoughts (reference is made to Andre Dubus):

“’I gestate: for months, often for years’, he begins…  Dubus likens ideas to a form of pregnancy, a self within the self. Stories ‘grow’ inside him.”

I’ve found this to be true in my own writing—including a number of stillbirths…

“Dubus writes an idea in a notebook, and then leaves it alone: ‘I try never to think about where a story will go.’ Planning is an act of control, and ‘I will kill the story by controlling it; I work to surrender.’”

I must admit that I do a bit of planning—control—when it comes to themes; but, I do love the feeling of letting the story lead me down its path…

Dubus describes becoming a character:

“At my desk next morning I held my pen and hunched my shoulders and leaned my head down, physically trying to look more deeply into the page of the notebook. I did this for only a moment before writing, as a batter takes practice swings while he waits in the on-deck circle. In that moment I began what I call vertical writing, rather than horizontal. I had never before thought in these terms. But for years I had been writing horizontally, trying to move forward (those five pages); now I would try to move down, as deeply as I could.”

The article continues:

“Horizontal writing is focused on amassing pages and words. When Dubus wrote horizontally, he wrote convinced that fiction was created through aggregation. Vertical writing, in contrast, values depth over breadth. Stories are written when they are ready to be written; they are not forced into existence by planning or excessive drafting.”

Again, I admit I used this method, even if modified slightly because of theme-development, which can pre-determine a certain arc for the plot—still, my attention on what the book “wants” often changes what I thought the plot should be…

The author of the article continues:

“It is very possible, very easy, to be owned by our goals. To be owned by our next book. To be owned by the feeling that we are competing with a world that outmatches us. Vertical writing — vertical living — has convinced me otherwise. It has reminded me why I began to write as a child: the joy of discovery, the surprise of creation, the power of imagination.”

It’s been said that stories and books are already inside us—waiting for us to honor them and bring them forth…

Vertical writers often feel “they” didn’t write the story…

Can you listen for a story?

Can you let a story tell you where it wants to go?

Can you trust the urge to write and not constrain it with “rules” and ever-so-popular “tips”?

Can you?

If you feel this approach could be valuable but don’t think you’re capable, please go read the full article………
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