“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”
― Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway wasn’t the only one to say this. There is evidence that Paul Gallico, another sportswriter, used much the same language in 1946.
That’s not all there is to create a story, however. A story doesn’t always pop up with all its details and twists and turns. Sometimes (perhaps most of the time) a story has a long period of being hidden beneath the soil that’s the author’s mind, like a seed that is getting ready to appear. And even after that, it’s not a complete story. A story has a lot of growing to do, like a flower or a plant. Gaining size, strength, petals and leaves, branches when it’s a tree, all these things are part of making it a story.
When I contemplate a story, there can be long periods where nothing seems to happen. Often I know where I am in the story and where I want it to go, but then I am looking for the ‘bridge’ in the text to get there. Jumping from A to G without touching the letters in between can make for a fast story but it will also make things hard to follow, jumpy, erratic.
During those periods, a lot of staring goes on. Staring into the void, or an abyss, as it might seem to people who aren’t inside my head.
Nothing of the kind happens though. In that stage I’m walking down each road that can lead from A to G, touching on B, C, D, E and F as possible without making the story dull or slow.
It can happen that each road I travel ends up nowhere, or I get stuck at D.
That is when time really takes a leap because at the end of the available roads I need to step back and let my inner ‘map’ figure out how to travel further. Usually, that works pretty well. Sometimes the solution is to kill a chapter and do that again, but better.
When I consider how much time goes into that thinking part of creating a story, the actual writing isn’t much. Still Hemingway was right with his words. Once you sit down at the typewriter (or keyboard, or smoke signal generator), you open a vein and you bleed. You pour yourself into the story, and sometimes that hurts. But it’s always worth it.