Dawn Tripp and the Process of Novel Writing

I read this on Caroline Leavitt’s blog: author Dawn Tripp, Game of Secrets, discusses the mystery of creation in novel writing. If you like what she has to say, read the rest of Caroline’s interview here.

I think it’s easier, safer, to focus on the how-to of craft. Writing is a discipline. Writing takes drive. No doubt about that. You need to stick with it, passage after passage. You need to work and rework a sentence, a chapter, a draft, until it breathes. And yet, there is that other ineffable, essential and immutable aspect of the process—what is mystical, obsession, inspiration, doubt—all of that, which to my mind are only different turns of the same coin. And so much more challenging to pin down or render into words.
I often feel that in my fiction, I work toward what I cannot say. I write for what lies just past words. Every novel I have written has started with some dark secret I can’t quite bring myself to tell, and so I tell it on the slant, through the story.
For me, those early months are breathtaking, feverish—it’s like being in love; it’s like having the flu—and even though I can’t always see how the disparate pieces will fall into place, I have come to have faith in that particular state, which is often beyond the reach of intellect, and coming from an altogether different mind. There is doubt, sometimes piercing doubt (will this all work out? can I pull it off?), yet that uncertainty—when you write into it—can be as galvanizing and as necessary as the dizzying rush of inspiration that is so much easier to adore.
Game of Secrets was an unusual book for me in the sense that I felt like I was continually being overturned. I knew in my gut that I had to stay open to that. I had to keep my balance with that. Again and again, I would discover some new element that was not in my original vision for the novel, and often in consequence, the arc of the story would change, and I would have to let it change.
I wrote what I thought was the ending of the story early on. I fell in love with it. It became that kind of horizon a strong ending can be that drives you, day in, day out, to create the 300 pages leading up to that moment. What I did not expect, and could not have foreseen, was that in fact that ending was not the climax. The most powerful revelation was something I was writing toward without even realizing it, until all at once, I did. A story can do that. A game can do that. It can all turn at the end.


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