by Dina Sleiman
In novelist circles you hear a lot about plotters (authors
who carefully plan their books in advance) and pantsers (authors who write by
the seat of their pants and make discoveries along the way.) I’ve even heard
the term “organic” writer tossed around lately, which is a prettier name for pantser. I’m a combination. I like to start a book organically, but at some
point I can see through to the ending quicker than I can type, at which point I
write a synopsis to help me remember the story. Sometimes I really think I need
a new kind of name for myself. I propose, "The Subconscious Writer."
Why subconscious? Because so much of my creative process
takes place on a level even I do not understand. Ideas percolate under the
surface, maybe for weeks, maybe for months, maybe for years. At some point they
burst out like a geyser. Characters are talking to me, scenes unfolding in my
head, worlds evolving, and I’m frantically trying to get them down on paper
before I lose them. I’m sure if push came to shove, I could sit down and come
up with an idea and craft a book like a normal person, but that’s not the way I
typically do it, and it’s not the way I desire to do it.
An upside of this subconscious process is that I rarely deal
with writers block. If the words and scenes aren’t there, I simply don’t write.
If I’m under some sort of deadline, I will sit down and read the last chapter
or so, and then try to write a few paragraphs. Often, that will stir things up
and get them moving in my head, and I’m on my way again. If not, I don’t push
it. And if possible, I wait for that exciting artistic wave, because it’s so
much more fun to surf it than to try to paddle against the current.
When I returned from Colorado a few weeks ago, I had every
intention to work on my newest novel, Chivalrous.
This is one I needed to plot in advance for the publisher, but I had my
first solid creative burst before my trip and the novel was well under way.
However, when I returned, I could just tell. It didn’t want to come. My
subconscious was trying to unravel things. I didn’t feel any leading from the
Holy Spirit to write. And so I didn’t.
Instead, I did what I felt prompted to do. I worked on me.
On the trip, God had been dealing with my heart, and I wanted to continue that
work. Over the next few weeks, I read a lot of nonfiction books about the
spirit, personality, and the true self. During that time, a few ideas welled up
from my subconscious about places in the book where I needed to tweak the plot
to be truer to the heroine’s character. Then finally, while reading Desire: The Journey We Must Take to Find the
Life God Offers, bells went off in my head. There was a lesson in that book
that my heroine desperately needed to learn. Problem was, I needed to learn it
too. And Gwendolyn couldn’t learn it until I did first.
What if I had rushed the process? What if I hadn’t waited
for my subconscious to untangle things? What if I had pushed ahead of the
prompting of the Holy Spirit? I still would have written a good book, but it
would have been missing something. It wouldn’t have been all God intended it to
I desire to write hand in hand with God in a creative partnership.
(He’s so much smarter and more creative than me.) I can’t do that by rushing through
a novel. In the end, being a “subconscious writer” isn’t the goal. It’s just
the process. The ultimate goal, whether pantser or plotter, is to be led by
the Holy Spirit and allow him to flow through every word we put on the page.
This is how to write with a godly passion that will cause our readers to fall
in love with our stories and transform them from the inside out.
Readers, have you
thought about how authors write? Would you rather read a story that is planned
or that develops naturally? One written out of practicality or passion? Writers,
what is your process like?
Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Check out her novels Dance from Deep Within, Dance of the Dandelion, and Love in Three-Quarter time. And please join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/