Friday, June 09, 2006

How I write a novel (2)

I think, if anything, the only thing posts of mine on this subject are going to say of value is this: everyone has to select the way that best suits their own creative mind.

I obviously seem to hate to be squashed inside the rigid design of a chapter by chapter outline. My way is definitely not a method that I would advise for everyone. It could be disastrous.
So why does it work for me?

Think of writing the book like a bus ride.

Firstly, I always have a clear objective: I know exactly how the book is going to end. The terminus is there and I am heading towards it all the way. (Mid-journey, I have been known to change which door to the terminus I use, though, and change the ending to the book a bit.)

Secondly, although I may not know the roads the bus will take, I have vivid stops along the way clear in my mind and I do know the kinds of scenery there will be visible out of the windows. I know my world, although the details of the route may be indistinct when I get on to the bus.

Thirdly, I know the important people on the bus very well indeed.
Fourthly, I know what I want to talk about with those people, while I am on the bus. I know what are the most important elements of our conversations and the tales they will tell me - love, politics, betrayal, war, courage, ethics or action? - I know what I want to emphasize.

Because I have those important things clear in my mind, I don't mind where the bus wanders as it goes along. I don't count the stops it makes, or exactly what I see through the windows, or who climbs on or off - those things become clear as I travel. Sometimes I tell the driver where to go; other times it's the other passengers that direct the journey. I am careful, though, about the plot dictating too much of the route. That's the mark of an unskilled navigator.

Why is it a method that I enjoy? Because it allows me to improve the story as I write - to spot interesting things out of the window as I travel, to ask interesting questions of those characters on the bus. I'm not so caught up in the map of the trip and with the timetable that I can't see opportunity when it shows up.

And, oh yes, because I love writing... but hate writing synopses and outlines - even outlines done just for myself.

I have a friend who has a brilliant idea for a sf novel. Yet he's so involved in the planning, he has never got past the first chapter. If he used my method and wrote, damn it, he might have finished it by now.

I shall talk more about the process in future posts.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to give a healthy 'hallelujah'. I'm so happy to learn that this is your style of writing. It is mine as well.

I can fully appreciate your comment about your friend with the fantastic story idea, but never getting past the first chapter. I've come across a good amount of people in a similar situation. One in particular, has spent years designing the appartments his characters live in and in defining the method he will use to structure his chapters. I stopped talking to him a long time ago, but I would be willing to bet that he's still standing in the corner at parties saying "I'm writing a novel. Yes I am. And it will put the literary world on its collective ear, I say. Just you wait until I finish it." He also spends a lot of time giving advice to other wannabes, merely regurgitating what he's read in 'how to' books. I stopped participating in such groups on the internet because it felt as if all they did was talk about what they were writing and weren't actually writing it...

I'm really enjoying these posts, Glenda. Thank you!

Cheers, Lisa.

Glenda Larke said...

My pleasure, Lisa.