Phases of a Story: The Churning Gas of . . . No Clean Way to Do This Title

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I had to think long and hard about this one because I couldn’t really put my thoughts to words.  There was a moment of giving up and throwing the concept out to everyone for how they would do it.  Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to call it quits when I’ve come so far with the theme.  I mean, the analogy has to work somewhere.  How could liquid and solid be connected to writing, but gas is impossible?  It shouldn’t be and I’m going to bring this theme home.

First, what is gas?  It is an air-like fluid substance, which expands freely to fill any space available, irrespective of its quantity.  Yes, this is the dictionary definition.  I see this as an ephemeral phase of matter because you can’t really hold it and it drifts away so quickly if you see it.  Think about how your breath dissipates on a cold day instead of hanging around.  It’s this hard to grasp, but still exists side of gas that keeps drawing my attention here.  There has to be that part of writing where you know something is there and are trying to contain it.  This can lead to the ‘gas’ becoming a liquid and solid, which means I’m not at the end of the path.  I might be at the beginning.

Once you have your idea locked down, you move along and don’t really consider the earliest stage.  We talk about how the idea came to us, but immediately jump to when it became solid.  Yet, there was a moment, either brief or extended, where you were struggling to grab that spark of imagination.  Without a doubt, it was there and you know you needed it like you need oxygen.  Yet, you kept having to chase it and find a way to creation the conditions to make it solid.  Maybe you left it alone and it congealed while you were doing something else.  Perhaps meditation worked or you simply brainstormed off the feeling until something clicked.  The point is that you began with an ephemeral, barely there idea that grew into the story.

This means, the gas phase of writing is much harder to control than liquid and solid.  It doesn’t appear when you want it or expect it.  This part just materializes on the periphery of your mind then gradually gets closer to the conscious mind.  You are along for the ride at the beginning since you might not realize it’s there.  This isn’t to say that you can’t grab it by the horns and wrestle it into submission, but that can leave pieces of it behind or damage the idea.  Perhaps at this stage, we’re all pantsers because we aren’t working off a plan.  This is where the plan is forged, but it has to be at the proper pace or you will lose it all.

Personally, I tend to ignore these sparks for a bit to see if they stick around.  Long ago, I got so many that it was impossible to chase them all, so I let the strongest ones survive to be nurtured.  The others vanished back into the ether only to stay gone or return connected to another spark.  It makes one wonder if an idea can ever truly be destroyed or it simply changes into something else like matter.

So, what do you think of this ‘gas’ phase of writing?  Does it make sense?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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26 Responses to Phases of a Story: The Churning Gas of . . . No Clean Way to Do This Title

  1. I like the idea of ideas expanding like gas. Like gas, they also fill the space. I think of ideas as if they are rolling clouds. They might as well be clouds of gas. I think this idea is terrific.

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  2. V.M.Sang says:

    I love your analogy of ideas being like a gas.they are indeed nebulous. My latest series has been floating in and out of my head for decades. I’ve only recently got round to writing it. The first book is published, and the second on the 2nd rewrite.
    Ideas float around, and are like mist. They come, then suddenly they’re gone. Perhaps they’ll return. Perhaps not, but are just as flighty as the mist.

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  3. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this great post from Charles Yallowitz on his Legends of Windemere Blog with the Phases of a Story: The Churning Gas of . . . No Clean Way to Do This Title

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  4. L. Marie says:

    These posts have been great, Charles. The way you described the gas form of writing perfectly captures it.

    For me a book is still “gassy” until I revise it. That’s when I really feel serious about it. I put a lot of “hot air” into a draft–anything goes. It has yet to take a true form. But when I really settle down and look at all of the mess and decide what stays and what goes, that’s when it stops being gas and becomes solid. At least for me.

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  5. I like your take on this. I may be one of the only ones out there who’s operated a still. It’s a way of refining something, in this case alcohol. The concoction that goes in has about 80% things you don’t want. Everything boils off at a different temperature, and comes off as a gas. At the low temp, alcohol comes off, but it can easily be lost to the atmosphere. This is where the coils can help condense it back into liquid. Perhaps the best story is pure alcohol. The drafting, critiques, and edits are to refine that alcohol with as few impurities as possible.

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  6. I like the analogy. Sometimes the ideas I’m trying to capture in a sequence of letters is hard to grasp, slips out of my hands. When I’m dealing with gas-phase writing I need to think in terms of influencing the story along, rather than trying to push it into a certain direction, or form it into a certain shape.

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  7. (Sorry to comment twice, I had two unrelated reactions.)
    Charles, one more detail to take your analogy just a bit further. Do you remember phase changes from high school science? Some phase changes require energy, it isn’t enough to just raise the temperature. If I’m paying attention to what phase I’m in, and what phase I’m going to, I can decide in advance how to push in the needed energy.
    It isn’t as simple as physics, solid to liquid, liquid to gas. it may be that all phase changes cost the writer some energy. I suspect that depends on the writer.
    There is another view of equal interest. Some phases changes give energy back to you. Steam going into the steam engine comes back out as water, but makes the engine run. Sometimes your writing rewards you with a nice, smooth run of a few thousand words thanks to the energy you put in during the previous chapter

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    • I was thinking of that, but worried that I’d be getting too complicated. We definitely expend some energy to change from phase to phase. It’s editing in my mind because that’s where changes are made. That can be a grueling experience too when compared to the free flowing imagination of a first draft. As far as giving back, you’re right. That boost you get from completing a book or just having a good day is definitely a recharge.

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  8. I think you did well with that concept. It’s interesting to think of it that way. 🙂 — Suzanne

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