Monday, November 28, 2005

Stringing It All Back Home

I love Bob Dylan. Many of you already know that; for those who don’t, you’ll realize it soon enough when the second book of my series (PARALLEL HEAT) hits the shelves next fall. But that’s not the point, apart from explaining my blog title. I want to talk about the struggle of putting all the parts of a novel together, at least for me.

The truth is I tend to write way far ahead. In fact, I already have about 100 or so pages on my third book down on paper, which I wrote while halfway through book one. Can’t help it. If the story is speaking loudly to me, I have to go with that energy. In fact, an author who I hold in high esteem once gave me a great piece of advice. She told me that if she didn’t write ahead—but merely kept anticipating those big scenes off on the horizon—by the time she reached them, all that power had faded away. Ever since that discussion I am a huge, gung-ho believer in writing whatever scene is whispering to me with the loudest voice.

The downside of that habit comes in pulling all the disparate bits together. For instance, on the book I’m currently writing I have a big huge chunk written toward the end—segments totaling more than 100 pages. But I’m nowhere near that place on the front side of the book, in other words, we are missing a big middle chunk. And that missing piece calls the latter part into question.

So how does one handle such a situation? I’m reminded tonight that outlining is my diehard friend. In the past I really did love outlining—lately, I think impatience has taken the stage and I’ve drifted away from the habit. But then you just reach that point in a book—especially if you write ahead—where it won’t come together and make logical sense if you don’t take a step back and figure out how it all tiles together.

I think of it like a mosaic, each piece a tesserae and it’s my job to form the full picture. Life has a similar out-of-order quality, even as its happening chronologically. Ever notice how many times your memory takes over with your own life’s events, reshaping their pattern into the “right” arrangement? I think that’s our mind trying to outline events into the most coherent, artful shape of things. So why do we resist the need to lay out our own books? Or, at the very least, why am I resisting it lately?

Perhaps the fear of concretizing the story too fully. Perhaps that impatience I mentioned above, the urge to freight train into the battle without stopping for water or air. I’m not sure. But tonight I’m going back to my own writing basics. I’m outlining, stringing it all together, and remembering that the most important thing as a writer is to hold to your best habits. Hold the course. Keep the faith. Keep on writing until the book is done.


Jaci Burton said...

sigh...these are the times I hate being a linear writer. It's difficult enough for me to stick to the synopsis I've written for the book.

I....can' *g*

But I admire the hell out of writers who can. It's fabulous you can write that far ahead, especially chunks of scenes in future books, D.

The Girl You Used to Know said...

I'm with you, Jaci.

I'm very linear. On occasion, I can pop a scene out of order and then write to it, but that happens very rarely. And when I'm stuck, I'm stuck.

I WANT to be able to just write out of whack and string it all together. I envy those who can.

Unknown said...

I have that problem, too, and I think you've justified me writing ahead. Right now I'm editing my first novel, which greatly diminishes my "free writing" time. But the next three novels are already screaming to get out. That's tough for a guy who gets an hour or two a day to write. But at least I know I've got plenty of novels in me!

Diana Peterfreund said...

Interestingly enough, I find that if I keep that "candy" scene in my head, my writing becomes more powerfully focused on bringing the story to the point of that scene, and when I finally get there, it's completely crystallized, and it flows out of me. I always write linearly.

Dineen A. Miller said...

I never thought about this so formally. It's nice to read about another author whose brain jumps ahead like that. By the fourth chapter I see the ending so I know where I'm headed, but the book I'm starting now I've see the entire story and actually wrote the synopsis first. Never did that before. So I'm actually going to try doing a scene index first. Should be interesting! Thanks for sharing this. Great insight.

Deidre Knight said...

You know, I would actually still call myself a linear writer. Even when writing ahead, I get into linear patterns usually and write whole big segments of contiguous chapters. And I always write on a straight trajectory on the front end, putting down chapter after chapter in logical order. But then there's this point of divergence. That's where I have to start putting down lots of later scenes.

The creative process fascinates me. We all write in our own way, and it's interesting to see how that happens.

Anonymous said...

I'm a linear writer. I get ideas for "ahead" scenes, but there's no way I can't write them until I get there. Usually, by the time I get to the writing of them, they've changed anyway. So I just jot down the scene ideas and then anticipate...


Anonymous said...

Deidre, do you like the danger of your method? I imagine it might be envigorating--taking the risk that the pieces won't align. The end process is probably like assembling a puzzle. The logic side of you brain kicks in, and with the help of the story itself, the beginning and end stretch out and write their own middle.

Unknown said...

I'm a very linear writer, but not so much a detailed plotter. On my current wip, the plot points are so complicated I HAD to plot the entire book out, scene by scene. I have to admit, it's really making the writing easier and the flow smoother. But those ideas that pop into my head for future plans, well, I jot them on sticky notes over my monitor. Won't do to lose them! :)