Saturday, April 17, 2010
*Guys, sorry to be so late. Something was trying to land on me yesterday and by the time I went to bed I'd forgotten what time it was. By the time I woke up I was two and a half hours late. SORRY.*
Everyone has a different process, of course. I know saying that seems like a given, but strangely, it’s not. I spent at least the first ten years of my career trying to fit the process of whichever advice book I’d just read or whoever had just spoken to our writers’ group. Considering how many people who write these books or give lectures talk about “the one true way” the idea of “more than one process” is probably more arcane than I thought.
But it gets worse than that because at least for me – how it is for you guys out there? – each book has its own process. Yeah, it might be close to the last one. At least I usually try the same “point of attack” because it usually works for me. But there’s the occasional book that just won’t “talk to me” and will keep me trying new things till it unlocks.
My older son, who is quite smart – smarter than I at any rate – is now writing his second novel. It took him almost two years to actually get going on it. Why? Because he couldn’t figure out what was happening in it. And he couldn’t “just write” till he figured out what the plot was because if he did that “everything will be trash. I’m not a pantser, I’m a plotter.”
I kept telling him “Some novels don’t tell you till you’re halfway through” (meaning of course, your subconscious doesn’t allow you to unlock whatever it’s come up with till you’re halfway through. I’m not under the illusion novels TALK) and “Just start it and find out.”
Of course he refused to for two years, which is why he’s only now doing it and finally figuring out what the novel is all about, etc.
With short stories my “process” is more consistent. Originally – though I never fit the “know everything about it before you put a word on paper” – I started with a short story outline. It went something like this (if I find the original, I’ll post it.)
Reason POV Character can’t obtain goal easily:
Internal realization/mirror moment/story goal flip:
Having this skeletal sort of outline allowed me to write the short story very quickly. The first time I found out there was an issue with it was when I got halfway through a story (Traveling, Traveling, sold to Analog) and realized it was complete. At that moment, I started suspecting my process was out of kilter. I think I still outlined a couple more, but after that, I found I had the entire short story completely in my head. No need to outline.
Does this happen to novels? Sometimes. That’s more insane because then I need to write very fast, before I forget all the twists and heaven helps me if I have to take a break because of an emergency.
So, how do you do it? Do you try to fit someone else’s process? Do you have your own? Does it change? Have you created your own? Did you take it from someone? Do you experiment? Does it vary by book?