Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Newbie Question #20

20. What is the hardest part of writing for you? The easiest?

Sometimes the hardest part for me is the actual sitting down to write bit. But, after I've conquered the sheer discipline of making time and space in my life to write, I find plot the hardest.

This is one of those reasons why I tell my students to have some kind of plan before they write -- that's MY problem. If I don't have a plan/plot outline, I would very happily have my characters meander through a sort of endless soap opera. There would be a lot of drama, but no real movement forward, you know?

As I said at a talk I did at the public library on Sunday, I'm pretty good at dividing threads of plot, complicating things, making my character face hardships that require them to consider "what's at stake?" -- but I have a harder time pulling bits back together and tying up all the story lines. If I don't pre-think those aspects of plot, I can get really tangled up.

The easiest part is characters. I'm one of those people who have always shared a large percentage of my brain with imaginary friends. When it was socially acceptable to do so, I roped my friends into playing complicated games with superheroes (and their Barbies) and other kinds of pretend. When it became awkward to ask people to romp in the woods pretending to be knights and princesses, I started keeping those people in my head. There's only so much room in my brain, so they quickly dribbled out onto notebook paper. This is all that practice writing I talked about, but which I sometimes still do as I'm falling asleep at night.

Almost all of my characters have lived in my head for some time (some for years -- I had Sebastian since high school) before they appear on page. I think this is why I sometimes get the comment that my characters seem very three dimensional. They have an entire life already lived before they even become text in a book.

This is one of those questions that's different for everyone. I'd love to hear from other people. What about y'all?


Kelly McCullough said...

Very nearly the reverse myself, with plot being my second easiest task after world, and character being the hardest.

I find world and plot easy because my brain is just tuned for complex linear big picture tasks.

I really have to work at character because as far as I can tell, I'm an alien. When I right characters processing the world in the way I process it, everyone tells me no one thinks like that. But over the years I've developed tools to model character thought processes that isn't at all like the way I think.

Douglas Hulick said...

Character and action sequences are the easy ones for me. Come up with people and then have them jump/fight/do things? I'm all over that.

Sitting down and writing - yeah, that can be tough many days. I definitely have had to adopt a workman attitude (this is your job, man) to get regular production.

The other hard thing is just plain turning off my interal editor. I don't want to think about the hours I have spent worrying over phrasing and rewording sentences and paragraphs rather than moving forward on a draft. I half think it's a means of procrastination some days, but more likely it's just my special OCD.