Excerpted from Cynthia Beach’s Creative Juices: A Splash of Story Craft, Process & Creative Soul Care (2019)
I was struggling. As I revised my novel manuscript, The Surface of Water, I was seeing only the edge of a character’s backstory. In the backstory, character Trish is assaulted. But I couldn’t yet see it. I really didn’t want to see it.
Writer James Scott Bell gave me the tool, though, when my Writer’s Digest magazine arrived. In his article about revising, Bell exhorted, “Gush out the words.”
He then offered four suggestions. One especially resonated: “Open a new document and write for 5 to 10 minutes…concentrating only on creating as much new material as you can. Overwrite.”
Well, I thought, what if I wrote the scene?
I opened a new document and wrote. I didn’t worry about grammar or punctuation. I allowed a wide space for my imagination.
When I finished drafting the assault, I had only two pages. But what those two pages revealed. I now had specific triggers for Trish—the smell of peppermint from the perpetrator’s breath and the Trentwood stairwell where it happened.
This new scene didn’t appear in my novel. However, the gems I discovered through word gushing—which let my imagination focus—added needed layers to the story.
Cynthia Beach is the author of The Surface of Water and the writing book, Creative Juices. She is a longtime professor of creative writing at Cornerstone University. Cynthia will be teaching workshops at The Well Conference: Quench 2021. See cynthiabeach.com.