Sunday, June 29, 2008

How I Work

Thought I’d explain a little about my process.

My novels do not come fully formed from my head like Athena from Zeus. And I wouldn’t want them to, as that would spoil the discoveries made along the way.

They start off as kernels, or sparks. A tidbit (a line, scenario, image, etc) that seems interesting to me. When I do get an idea, I make sure to write it down. I usually just let it be for a while. For either I am already working on something else or I let the seed get nurtured…that whole metaphor. I peruse the notes every so often. I let them stay in my mind, watering them with some “what ifs” or maybe a “hey that idea fits in here, too.” By the time I finish what I’m currently working on, I have a pretty solid idea of what to work on next. Sometimes, though, it’s like Jack’s Beanstalk and growing out of control. I’ve actually had to put a novel on hold in mid-completion because the character’s plight would not leave me alone. Or rather the character would not leave me alone. They can be quite “loud.”

A little of Asimov’s advice and a lot thinking gives me a Malleable Outline. A Malleable Outline has room for expansion, changes or cuts. A number of elements remain fixed, of course. But often I will not leave nothing to the imagination. I find that writing is a collaborative experience. Between the Inspiration, the Characters and the Author. Some totally grok that I “hear” from characters, others just nod and smile. No, no voices. But I do listen. They often interject tidbits or plot points that are entirely “news” to me. I reassess the story and write accordingly.

Generally, I write out of sequence. As long as the pillars of the MO are in place, I’m free to zero in on the parts that particularly excite me. Parts that I’m most passionate about or can’t wait to “see.” I’ll end up with larger chunks that can be easily bridged. And along the way I’ve incorporated new ideas and influences into a better whole. As I stated before, lately my choices have been pieces which would behoove me to write in chronological order. It depends on the work, of course. So I’m not locked into a method. As I say, it’s malleable.

I revise as I go. I backtrack, reading the last 5-10 pages (usually in transit) and make revisions. I’ll then write more. When next at a computer I make the changes. I make alterations to my changes as well as the new material as I type them . At certain points (nothing regimented, just as I feel necessary) I will read through what I have so far of the book. Getting back in touch with it as whole, rather than a series of specific scenes. The process repeats to completion.

Despite the old adage that one should, I do not necessarily write every day. Sometimes I need to “work out” a scene and want to let it stir. Spurts, maybe? There are stretches where I do write every day. It just depends on the piece. Since I’ve been blessed recently with no shortage of ideas, I am content to let the stories unfold as the characters share them with me.

Gotta go...I think I hear Andy calling...


Danielle Mari said...

This is all very reassuring to me... especially that one project may interrupt the other and that you have non-writing marination days. I always feel like I'm too ADHD or undisciplined when I switch midstream or take a day off. My real problem, though, is that I tend to get a whole bunch of projects started, but have an issue with actually finishing them. Then I really DO feel undisciplined!

Peter Von Brown said...

To help reassure you, I did go back and finish the novel that I interrupted for another.