Saturday, January 21, 2023
THERE’S NO WRITE OR WRONG
A couple of my fellow RRBC’ers have blogged about their writing process and I found that extremely interesting, as well as helpful. It made me examine my own methodology and so I thought I’d so the same.
First, let me mention that I’m choosing today to relax, lay back, settle my thoughts a bit, and have had a restful day. The day started late, as I didn’t wake up until almost 9 o’clock. This was fortunate, as I hadn’t gone to bed until 3 am last night. This is just one of many terrible habits I have; the others I will not mention. At noon, our time, I tuned in to Raters Not Haters, with our excellent hosts, Pat Garcia and John whose name I can’t spell, but you were both great, as was Shirley and the review of her latest. Then I ate an apple and some peanut butter and fooled around on the computer for a while.
That brings me to now, and since it is after 4, and so by extrapolation, 5 somewhere, I am enjoying a chilled glass of Prosecco, God’s gift to people who can’t often afford to drink Champagne.
So, about my writing methods. The weird thing is that I often get my story ideas by thinking (and by thinking, I mean, having something just pop into my head for no apparent reason) of a title. For example, the title “Saint Harry” came into my head one time after thinking about how sometimes people complain about their spouse, the spouse can’t do anything right, but when that spouse dies, he or she becomes a saint, incapable of doing anything wrong. My sister-in-law was like that, and it was really heartbreaking, but I didn’t want a sad story, so it became a bit of a comedy. I do that often, turn something serious or maybe uncomfortable, into a spoof, because sometimes that is a way to make the issue palatable. Another instance of that is “The Ex Chronicles” which is actually the exaggerated story of an instance that really broke my heart and took me many years to get over. I would love to hear if any of you have done that – it’s a way of coming to grips with things, I think, of exorcizing demons. Sometimes, the first line of a story will also pop into my head, and I will weave it into a full story. This often happens on my walks, either with Ziggy or alone, and I have learned to rush home and write it down or it will vanish like smoke. If I’m in the car, I have a little pad I write it down on when it’s safe to do so. I have lots of little slips of paper in a pile with story ideas which should keep me busy for years to come.
Anyway, after the initial inspiration, I have two methods. For books, one of which I have in the initial stages now, I write a full outline, complete with character profiles, and an ending. However, as I write, and as so many of you have mentioned, the story will begin to tell itself to me and the characters may grow and change. Sometimes, a character will feel like he or she needs to be in there, even though I can’t see how at the moment. I have a character like that in my latest, and I love her so much that even though I know she takes the story off-track, for now I’m leaving her in there. Later, when it’s done, if she seems too disruptive, I will take her out (kill my darling, in other words) and later give her a story of her very own.
My last book had a really complicated plot with switched identities and by the end, I was so confused I almost gave up. However, my editor gave me a wonderful idea. She said to go through and write the title of each chapter on an index card, and a sentence about what was in the chapter. At the top, she said to write the purpose of the chapter and then go through and get rid of any that didn’t “advance the story.” (We know that phrase, don’t we, writers?) I did and got it into a manageable state. Then, I had some issues with the sequence of some of the events, so her advice was to go back to the cards and move them around until I felt they were right. That did the trick for me.
For short stories, like many of you have mentioned, I don’t have an outline, but just type the whole thing out as it comes to me. I usually “see” the entire story before I begin, but if I don’t have a clear ending, I just trust myself to find one as I’m writing.
One piece of advice I got from National Novel Writing Month, with which most of you are familiar, was to never edit as I’m writing, and I try to stick to that. Occasionally, as I reread a previous chapter to reorient myself to the story, I will make a minor correction, but I find that advice to be crucial. Without it, I would fall prey to perfectionism and the story may never be “good enough” to get written. I had started my first book over and over for years, and that advice to not edit moved me from a few chapters, rewritten numerous times but never “quite right,” to a completed manuscript ready for editing.
Well, that’s it folks. Now, I shall return my full attention to that Prosecco and to the television show George is watching, which seems to involve aliens.
Here’s to you, little green men (and women), wherever you are.
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