by Savannah J. Foley
When I was younger, I literally thought I was crazy. I felt about writing in a way that none of my other writing friends did. I seemed to have an instinct for what would work in a story and what wouldn’t, something my peers weren’t even conscious of. Later on I found out that I was just a normal writer, but that fascination with the ‘different’ things I was feeling never really went away.
Recently I read an article where the author mentioned that when she had an epiphany about a particular topic from reading a quote, she “felt every tuning fork in me go buzz.” Well, my tuning forks were going buzz, too. Not at her same revelation, but at her very description.
I, and just about every writer I know, have an innate ‘tuning fork’ of sorts that gives me insight into my writing. It’s the extra sense when something ‘feels right.’ For me it’s a slight pressure on my chest as if the idea has landed there and started absorbing into me, usually precipitated by a rising feeling of excitement. It’s a sense of rightness, of saying, ‘Yes. Yes, that’s it exactly!’
My tuning fork thrums when I see a quote or hear a song lyric that unlocks the meaning to a feeling inside me I didn’t even know I had. As if I couldn’t recognize this knowledge I was carrying until those words verbalized it.
Lately I’ve been thinking about that ‘gut feeling’, particularly as it relates to novel writing. Last month I hit a burst of creativity that allowed me to write 10k in two days and finish a book I was working on, but it wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t listened to my tuning fork to guide the way. After experiencing a rush like that, I wanted to keep the momentum going, and continue to work at a crazy pace. So I started brainstorming on my next book.
And ran out of steam.
What could be wrong? I kept asking myself. I was just plowing through this other story, why am I stopped here? Eventually I realized it was because I was forcing scenes I logically thought would work, instead of listening to my tuning fork telling me that emotionally that scene is NOT going to work, and in fact I need to start from a completely different perspective.
This ‘tuning fork’ is something I think that all writers need to learn how to recognize. Because you realize I’m not talking about some fictional organ in your body cavity thrumming with activity. The ‘tuning fork’ is actually your subconscious, the place where a story’s bones are grown. I believe that you can write a book using pure logic, but it’s not going to be fun, and in the end won’t be enjoyable.
We write because we want to communicate. And communication comes with a whole slew of other social cues: tone, connotation, trust, etc. You have to use every piece of humanity at your disposal to create a story that’s going to thrum with your readers, that’s going to activate their tuning forks and make them realize that a part of them is in that story, too.
How good are you at listening to your tuning fork, and when has it steered you right? Let’s discuss in the comments!
Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal. She is currently working on editing Nameless to go out on submissions. You can read an excerpt from Nameless here.