Monday, August 30, 2010

Writing is like a baking bread. . .

So, I’m banging my head against the wall because a scene that I figured would take me about an hour to write has taken three days, and it still won’t gel. One of the most frustrating experiences a writer can face, I think. When all the ingredients are there but the damn bread just won’t rise. Bah.

Mostly it’s because I can’t get into one of the character’s heads. I can’t quite figure out how he’d react given the circumstances. I know he’s seriously angry—close on being enraged—but how does that play out? Does he explain in precise detail what he’s going to do and why, all the while catching certain people in all sorts of lies and equivocations? Or does he just cut them off at the knees and stalk out, leaving a quivering, bloody mass of flesh behind? And if so, how? Another problem is that there’s a lot of moving parts in the scene and so how do they also react and interact? Actually, I have them down for the most part, it’s only the central character in the scene who’s being a pain in the keister.

Bah again.

Maybe I should go slap him around a bit, then he’ll punch me back and I’ll have his reaction.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Creative Process, Part 3

When I first started writing, I had this image of me like F. Scott Fitzgerald, bottle of bourbon in the bottom desk drawer, pounding away on an old Underwood typewriter at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. Come to find out that I write much better sober on a computer after a full night’s rest. Oh, and a cuppa ready for the sipping.

Rituals. We all have them. Things we do to make whatever else we’re doing go that much better, to take the edge off any anxiety or nervousness we might feel. And I think artists—and writers in particular—have rituals up the wazoo. Some are as simple as having a cup of coffee (or tea) or as elaborate as wearing the write (ha!) clothes, listening to a particular kind of music, having the desk just so. I’ve a friend who has to play a game of Free Cell before he’ll start his writing day. Me? Well, let’s just say I’m familiar with all the games that come with Windows. And some that don’t.

But mostly mine are about four of my five senses. Yeah, I do have writing clothes—comfortable ones that’ll allow me to sit at my computer for long stretches. I have my desk facing the window so I can look out and see a bit of sky, trees, greenery. There’s the ubiquitous tea (either herbal or decaf—no caffeine buzz for me, darn it), and, also yeah, I have to have music. Usually it’s classical, but sometimes it’s jazz or world music. Something I can tune out or tune into as the writing ebbs and flows. Not really background music; more like musical support.

Taste, sight, touch, hearing. No smelling, though. I find smells, even the good kind, too evocative and distracting.

All this to put pen to paper, so to speak. Well, whatever makes the creative process work. And to perdition all that doesn’t.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Creative Process, Part 2

Hah! Second post in less than a week. Told you I’d do better.

Anyway, I was thinking more on the creative process. There are many ways to write a book. Some, like one of my favorite authors, C.J. Cherryh, do an outline first. They then follow the outline as they write, amplifying the “points.” I think this is probably the most efficient way—you know your starting point, you know where you’re going, and you know how you’re going to get there. And if the story changes on you half way there (as it sometimes does), just do another outline incorporating the changes.

Another favorite author, Diana Gabaldon, does not use outlines. What she does is write as the ideas hit, developing scenes in no particular order. When she feels she has enough, she strings what she’s written together in chronological order and then fills in the gaps. This, I think, would be the most fun, writing what you feel like writing until you have a book. Of course, it takes truly knowing your characters and story, and also discipline—to know when (and where) to begin and where (and when) to stop.

Two very successful authors with two wildly different writing techniques.

Me, I do neither. Or maybe it’s a combination of the two. I know the starting point and generally know the ending. The in between, though—the getting from prologue to epilogue—I have no clue until I actually write it. Sometimes it’s logical. If A happens, then B must follow and C is close behind. (One of the reasons I have problems with prequels—do not start me in the middle of the story. Please.) But sometimes it’s not; there was a scene in Covenants where there were three logical outcomes, and I had a hard time deciding which one to choose. So I chose all three, threw them in the pot, and watched the fun bubble up.

And there are times when character will insist on doing things his way. Or hers. Or theirs. They just totally Bogart my story and start telling what they want to tell. Like the way Guardsman Jeffen has just managed to muscle his way past Suiden, Laurel, Wyln and even Rabbit to take center stage. I don’t know how long this will last, but I’ll watch to see what bubbles up next.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Creative Process

Ouch.  Four months since I last posted.  I apologize and will do better from now on. Promise.

But just because I’ve been slack on my blog doesn’t mean I’ve not been working on Rabbit’s continuing adventures. The Reckoning Flames is chugging along and it’s been fun seeing all the mischief he and his friends are getting into. Which is always good—and a relief. Sometimes writing can be a chore, such as when the ideas are there but you can’t get them on paper. Or the ideas won’t mesh and you end up with a hodgepodge of stuff that doesn’t make much sense. Or when the words just won’t come at all.

Like when my mother my mother died.

Mom had been ailing for years, progressively getting worse, until there was nothing left of the once vibrant woman she’d been. Nothing left at all. When my sister, brother and I finally agreed that it was time to take her off of life support, I thought I had prepared myself and was ready to let her go. Yet, not only did grief hit me like a tsunami when she died, it flooded into surprising areas, like my writing. It gave me such a massive writer’s block that even simple emails and jotted notes on postits became hard to write.

That was the reason why Shadows Past was so late being published. In fact, if it weren’t for the support and encouragement of my editor, Anne Sowards, I don’t think it would’ve been published at all, let alone finished.

Mom’s been gone four years now and the shock of her passing has lessened. I still miss her and grieve some that she’s not here, but I’m not second-guessing myself anymore on what to write—or wondering if I can write at all. As I said, it’s fun again and, even better, it’s satisfying.

And that’s very, very good.