The art of writing requires discipline of thought. However, do not be a captive of thought. Instead learn to control it. Writing is an art. Its also a science. Like science, it has formulae. Try to go beyond the formula you’ve discovered. This is how physics became quantum physics because an anomaly about energy and matter had to be reconciled. Its the same with thought and circumstance. Thoughts lead to action. Action to circumstance. Circumstance to conclusion blah blah blah.
So, start thinking. By thought I mean singular. Every writer, especially while starting out, has a lot of thoughts. Is oppressed by them. Like a harvest of apples. Or strawberries. There will be a few rotten ones. Some would be unripe and unfit for consumption. Some might have a blemish or two. Separating the best out of the rest is the art of writing. And having identified the lead thought, look for corollaries. The mind is more disciplined that you think unless you are on mind-altering substances. Even there, some like Coleridge, manage to pill it off.
Maybe the process will start with a single image. An image is always identified with a thought. For example, a man in a burning house. Then the next step: the thought becomes a circumstance. Hey, where is the house? Why is the man burning? How did the thought cross your mind? Is it something you saw in a movie? Or read in a book that strongly influenced you? Or stood out in a raconteur’s narrative? Leave the mind to dwell on it. Let it grow. It will crystallise. Explore its expansion. It will be like new skin growing around a wound. Yes, every idea is a wound. It thrusts itself into your brain. You develop it by only healing it. The skin that grows around it is the body that was there but you didn’t see. Like a voyeur you start examining the body.
So, Think. How many corollaries have you identified that relates to the original thought?
Thoughts are the matter of ideas. All writing starts with an idea.
There is a story waiting to be told in all of us, goes the adage. True. But most of us are voiceless. Or too noisy. We do not have a proper conversation with ourselves. Perhaps this is because we are afraid of where it might lead. My suggestion is, follow it. Then one stream of conversation will isolate itself from the rest. That is the current leading you to the idea waiting to be reaped. The subconscious is the writer’s real granary.
Carry I around. Don’t try too hard. Allow it to develop. Allow it to breathe the world. See the sighs. Let it eavesdrop on conversations. Remember it’s a part of you like a parasite using your mind as the host. Watch it until its time to shake it loose. Or kill it, but that’s another story we will come to another time.
This is not stream of consciousness writing I’m talking about. You always wanted to be a writer. Are you willing to start with the burning man? Maybe your book will be titled The Burning Man. Or the Mystery of the Burning Man. Or the Fire that Cleanses. Wait, where did that come from? Cleanses? Cleanses of what? Sin? Retribution?
Lets do a simple exercise. Write an outline on the man’s story. For example, you think the burning man has died unfairly. Or is a victim. Whatever. Hold that thought try to connect it with the other thoughts. Then you’ll have an idea about the circumstances of his burning. Maybe its not a man. Its a woman committing sati, whose hair was chopped off. Or the man is Joan of Arc’s best friend. Sounds ridiculous. Go on explore it and you’ll find it may not be all that stupid. The idea will be what you wish to narrate about the burning man or the situation or the times. This is the start of the plot of your story.
This is a process I call Thriting. Thoughtful writing. Mail me the plot. Lets work on it together.