The Fragments of Desire by Kathe Koja
All my work is done on little scraps of paper—you can see them here on the New Yorker Book Blog if you like, some of the notes that eventually became Under the Poppy.
They were written on blow-in cards, on random sticky notes, on ripped corners of ruled blue-lined notebook paper; they come from wherever such fragments originate, which is to say the ether, which is to say no one knows; or I don’t, anyway. When they come, I write them down—I try never to be without something to write on and with—and I tuck them away, and there they stay, accumulating, breathing in and out, becoming or not-becoming; not every scrap is used, not every idea comes to fruition, not every really juicy gorgeous line that pops into the mind can, alas, ever make it to the page. (Sometimes whole novels are written that never see the light of day, but that’s another story altogether, and besides, the wench is dead.)
This is not a method of creation I ever consciously adopted: like the ideas themselves, the notes, it just came out of that ether and I found that it worked, so I kept on doing it. My writing process is mostly uninvestigated by me; the unexamined life sometimes is worth living, especially if you’re worried that you might really screw something up by peeking once too often under the hood. So much of what I do when I work is done by instinct, by feeling my way through the dark, the way your hand gropes in that kitchen junk drawer for the sideways screwdriver or antique spool of thread or whatever-it-is you’re hunting: your fingers know it when they feel it, you don’t need your eyes to see.
The mighty stream of creational consciousness floats many a fictional boat, and my own little castaway raft is happy riding the tides, crashing into this and that, plucking some things rich and strange and some things intriguing but unusable and some things abandoned over the side again, with regret or without. Every book I’ve ever written has its discard file, and Under the Poppy‘s got a whopper, but many of those discards have offshoots that are usable, and others, though not germane, are still reflections of what in the end became essential. Like the life it hopes to mirror, so much of what matters in fiction is invisible, just sitting there off to the side, tucked sideways into a folder, the curled-up end of an unsticky sticky note on which is written a name, a line of dialogue, a fragment of sober research, something that lives in unbodied desire until a reader and a writer together make it real.