Write Till it Shines

Today I was listening to author Nedi Okorafor—winner of the Hugo, the Nebula, and the World Fantasy award, and she spoke of a method of writing that is something that my gut tells me is exciting.

She said that very often, an idea will come to her as a bit of dialog, where a character begins speaking with a strong voice. It might be a scene or a part of a scene, but she will write it down and polish that scene until it shines. It might be the opening scene to a book, or it might be closer to the middle or even an end, but it is a seed, something that a story will grow from.

Now, after she does that, she will imagine other scenes, too, and so she will write them out. Some might be powerful, like that first scene, but others won’t be. So she uses the powerful scene as a touchstone, something to compare other scenes against.

She’ll look for powerful scenes, and some will come, but her goal soon becomes simple: find the whole story and get it on paper. Only when the whole story is presented can she really get to work.

At that point, she begins working on each scene individually. She may try to shape it, give it greater power, make it grow. So she might have to reimagine some scenes, figure out how to dramatize the tale. But her goal is that she wants to create a scene similar to her original scene, one that has the same heft and strength. One that “shines.”

Often times, she will need to edit the scene into shape—cut out any excess, use more powerful verbs, strengthen the dialog, and so on, so that a weaker scene becomes stronger and stronger.

Ultimately, the goal becomes this: create one scene after another so that each shines, each is powerful.

I like this. It’s the same method that I used early on in writing my novel On My Way to Paradise, which won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award. The method seems very organic to me, and it just feels right. Write a great scene, follow it with another, and another, until your tale shines like a string of perfect pearls.

So among your writing tools, among the ways that you approach the writing process, just remember: Write till it shines.



I have a new short story in a new anthology: Asylum Archives

I have two live workshops up on my site. If you are interested, you can learn more here.

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