You know Sudoku, right? That highly addictive little numbers game where you have to fill in 9 squares with numbers 1 through 9, AND make sure that each vertical and horizontal line ALSO has the numbers 1 through 9 without repeating.
It’s mind numbing fun.
But how is it compared to writing?
When you fill in the blanks on a Sudoku puzzle, you don’t just fill them all in frivolously. You have to take it step by step by step. You do not always know where the 1 goes until you’ve filled in several of those 5s. You might have almost all of your 4s filled in except 3, but you won’t be able to nail down the exact spot for that last 4 until you’ve written in a few 8s. Sometimes, you mess up and the 7 you inserted doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the puzzle, but you won’t find out until almost the entire puzzle is filled in!
I know it’s hard to explain in words. But open up Sudoku on your phone, tablet or computer and try it. You’ll get what mean.
Sometimes, writing fictional narratives can operate in the same way. You might not know where you’re going. (Even if you’re plotting an outline, this applies) You begin with one step, then move forward with another step. Then another step. When I write, I don’t always know what’s going to happen, I don’t know what my characters are going to say or do specifically until I start to sit down and write! And sometimes, I make mistakes, and scenes have to be deleted, or moved around (like the numbers in a Sudoku puzzle) Sometimes, even characters have to be reworked or deleted and redeveloped. Often, I don’t know what one character will do, until the other characters do their thing. I might have this great idea for one chapter, but I can’t write it out in specifics because I need to write the proceeding chapters first.
What do you think? Have you played Sudoku?