Originally Posted by gmw
I don't literally hear the voices, but sometimes it doesn't feel far away from that. I think it's just a frame of mind thing.
When I'm programming I usually* sit there on the outside of a new problem and think things through logically: I break each piece down smaller and smaller until I get something I can write, and then I write all those small pieces and put them together until I get the big result. So I know how such things can work, but when I tried writing stories that way all I got was text that sounded like one of my software manuals.
My best writing seems to come when I immerse myself in a scene. It doesn't feel like an intellectual exercise**, though of course it must be. I let my mind do whatever it is that it does, without consciously trying to force the steps - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't - but, if I can't place myself inside the story nothing happens. To me the experience, that feeling of involvement, is a little like reading a very good book, but more intense and over a much longer period. I suspect it is that very similarity that drives me to write: I want to repeat that experience, I'm addicted. But it doesn't just happen, it doesn't always come, so I have to keep striving at it, looking to find that place again.
As an ostensibly logical person, I need to be for my paid work, I know that what I describe for writing sounds strange, perhaps even schizophrenic. It certainly took me by surprise when it first started happening for me. It's almost like reverting to childhood and the ad-hoc games I used to play (my sister reminded me of this recently) pretending to be Zorro or Tarzan. I never cared, back then, whether the imagined events made any sense to anyone on the outside, that didn't matter, the mind just came up with the next bit as needed. Now I let much the same happen, the difference being that I come back later to see if it worked.
* As I suspect may also be true of writing books, but I haven't been doing it as long as I've been writing software, different programming problems can respond better to different methods of attack - but again it's often a personal thing.
** Of course there are deliberate intellectual aspects to writing - the review and editing processes, the checking that what has been written is logical and consistent and so on - although some of this happens almost automatically as I re-read what I've written almost constantly as a way putting myself back in the story.
I appreciate this a lot because I think one of my hardest obstacles is writing fiction is exactly this being able to imagine/put myself in the scene and/or as the character. I tend to approach it all too logically -- more like the programming (which I've done for 30 years now!) method described above. I'm have and am working to get beyond that but it is difficult for me. I noted in the Faulkner Advice to Writers thread I started where he appears to just "follow the characters" in order to get the book written.