Thursday, October 11, 2007

Going Down That Same Old New Path

I recently started a new novel, so I figured I would put down a few thoughts here at the early stages to go over what I am doing.

As Kelly has said many times on this blog, there are innumerable ways to write a book, and all of them are right. The trick is not only figuring out what is right, but what is right this time around.

I am an impatient writer, which means my inclination is to compose first and ask questions later. Those questions can often be pretty fundamental ones, like, "Who is this character?", "What are his motivations?", "How will he change?", "What is the main conflict?" - you know, niggling little detail stuff. :) I think this is mainly because I write from character. I get a couple of people in my head, see them in an interesting situation or two, and jump in from there. Oh, I have general idea of where things are going, but or the most part I don't see much of the road beyond the next bend in the tale.

This book has been coming to me differently. I had two characters, each originating from a different short story concept, who really seemed to want to be in the same story from different ends. Problem was, they really weren't the kind who would connect with one another, at least as I initially saw them. Furthermore, they were different enough that I had to figure out just what the heck they were doing wandering around, getting in one another's way.

Trying to figure out "why" led to "where" - world building. Before I knew it, I - the character guy - was tinkering with magic systems, multiversal relationships, mythology, forestry, and all sorts of things. This is all stuff I've done before, but usually more on the fly, or at least piece-meal as is comes up in the story, because the characters were busy doing things and I wanted to watch! Not so this time. This time, both of them were waiting patiently in the wings for me to assemble the stage for them, get the lighting right, and start recruiting bit players.

I've gotten a good amount of the "where" down now, but there is still more to do. I have also written the first two chapters because I wanted to get a better feel for each of these fellows. Even though I have been busy with scaffolding and paint (to continue the metaphor), I still needed to see them on the stage and try their lines, if nothing else to better see where they need to go. That is done, which means I can again step back, this time to figure out the "how" (plot) in more detail. Which is also interesting, because I have much of the final scene and last chapter in my head as well - another first for the most part.

Clearly, my process has changed in this latest book (some of it, I admit, consciously on my part). I'm finding it rather intriguing and exciting so far.

So, how do things change from book to book or story to story for you? What stays constant? Does it bother you if you suddenly find that that "constant" needs to go out the window?

1 comment:

Stephanie Zvan said...

I'm terrible with constant. If I had to be consistent about how I write, I'd never write. Brushing my teeth every day (with an electric toothbrush) sometimes feels like a chore. I'm the last person who should ever try to take the advice to write every day.

That said, I have noticed some trends in my writing. I start and abandon fewer stories than I used to. I have a better sense of what will make a complete story after having written this many.

I used to write the scene that was obsessing me right then, wherever it fit into the story. I now trust myself to be able to capture all the cool things that made me obsessed when I get to that point in the story (when I'll also know enough about everything else to make it fit in smoothly). I may make some cryptic notes for myself, but I don't write the scene.

I write more quickly and concisely. I use fewer "hesitation mark" words--modifiers and wordy constructions. In short, I do a lot less work, particularly when you factor in revisions. It's kinda cool.