By Alex Terrell | Thursday, April 29, 2021
By Alex Terrell
Thursday, April 29, 2021
Writing is something that happens in phases, but so too is the way we accept it. I’ll explain. When I write I feel all at once captivated and captive, held and hurt, lost and loved. It seems that when I am writing, especially when revising, there always exists in me two voices. The first voice is the obsessive one. The one that says, “Write this story or die.” That’s the voice I like to follow into unknown adventures. But the second voice is there as well. It’s the one that says, “You will never finish this and if you do, no one will read it.” I don’t much like that voice. But they are both there and they are both reminding me of something unavoidable--writing happens gradually.
Truly, there are phases. I go through them like the moon cycles through its own phases. There are eight of them.
Phase one: New Moon
This is when the story shows its face for the first time. In this phase everything is exciting, fresh, and shining, but it’s only visible in my head. I’m in love with the story, the characters, the setting, everything. It’s all bold and living boldly in me. Too soft to write down, too loud to ignore.
This may be my favorite phase.
Phase two: Waxing Crescent
This is when reality starts to seep in around the edges of your story. There really is a story that is gestating, trying desperately to get out of me. I have to decide if I want to let it live in me or in the world. That’s an exciting and terrifying moment. That moment right before I decide to dive face first into a world I’ve built. When reality begins to shift. When that first voice tells me this story may kill me if I don’t obey it.
Phase three: First Quarter
I can see so much more of the story forming. Things begin to feel real, no longer imagined. I put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and I take the first strokes. I swim cautiously into the deep, paddling hard toward that island in the distance that is my story.
Phase four: Waxing Gibbous
I’ve written a fair amount at this point. I’m really clacking away on my laptop. I’m giving the story it’s due time. I’m no longer just daydreaming about it or paddling toward it. I am going full force into it. This is where I seriously begin to draft. Where I begin to listen actively to what my characters are telling me.
I spend quite a bit of time in this phase.
Phase five: Full Moon.
This is the phase when I’ve completed a first draft.
It’s the roughest it will ever be. I’ve let it take its first few breaths. This is when I can see a full picture of what the piece may be about. This is also the moment where the second voice comes in and I begin to doubt.
Things can get dark in this phase even if they seem bright.
Phase six: Waning Gibbous
The phase where I simply cannot accept that this is the piece I have written. All I can see are the inconsistencies, the plot holes, the time jumps, the fault lines.
I am in agony in this phase because I’ve spent time writing this thing and now I don’t even want to look at it.
Phase seven: Last Quarter
This is the phase I am in now with my current book. I am in revising mode. This is when I have begun to push past my fear and doubt. When I am fighting that second voice for the mic. When I am pulling this thing apart.
This is surgery. This is excision. This is rebirth. This is sloughing off some skin. This is cutting and snipping. This is radical pruning and figuring out what I’ve been trying to say since the New Moon.
This is the phase I spend the most time in. It’s where I get the most done and the least (at times).
In this phase anything is possible. You can create and destroy. You can give birth. You can write histories. And rewrite them.
In this phase I have to be kind to myself and at the end of it I have to be sure. Not sure that others will find value in what I’ve written, but that I have found value in it.
Phase eight: Waning Crescent
This is the phase when the story has reached its natural end. I’ve pruned and watered and fed it. I’ve cared for it. Bled for it.
This is the phase when I release what I’ve done into the world. I let it exist without me and let others experience it for themselves. It’s when I say, “Yes, this is what I’ve said.”
This is a phase that we may not see for every project. Some stories don’t want to wane.
This is also the phase where you accept that the work must speak for itself and that is a hard thing to do. It’s okay to spend time in the Last Quarter deciding.
But don’t wait too long because there are so many other stories, other moons waiting for you.
Learn to write with the moon in Alex's Writing Lab, "Phases", then explore ancestry and lineage in her Craft Session, "'Motherland, drip on me': Voice, Ancestors, and the Histories We Carry."