After completing a novel, I always arrive in this abstract place where I can’t focus on anything right away. Some might construe this to be a type of recovery, a vacation from thinking; but in my case that wouldn’t be accurate. I am unfamiliar with the experience of not thinking. And Recovery implies that something has been negatively altered in you. Writing always alters me in a positive way.
So I ruminate about that book, and several others, think about how it felt, wonder what might be the next thing I do from scratch, consider the possibilities of marketing, that I might want to read someone else’s book now, and generally organize the scattered thoughts in my head into a functioning unit again. Once that happens, I can begin anew, to create something else.
~ DNA ~
At the heart of any novel, is the stuff of life. The details are what gives it its uniqueness. Often, the hardest parts about writing a full-length novel are those maddening details.
In my most recently completed book, Also Known As DNA, there was another level, in that it was a sequel. These were characters who already existed in my fictional world. I had to take them through another series of challenges, but also keep track of the facts that existed in the first book, to make sure it remained consistent in the second one. When you write a sequel, there is an amazing amount of detail that has to be recalled or accessed. You have to juggle those details together, and yet be able to separate them and not confuse them with each other.
There is also the usual attention to detail in the plot and character developments that are unfolding in the book you’re writing.
- That destroyed or lost cell phone in one chapter, cannot magically appear five chapters later.
- The camera someone has cannot have magically been transported into the hands of another character.They have to have made the exchange at some point.
- That character who had three guns–they have to be accounted for later, when guns are being used.
- That character could not have been at Point A, when she was just at Point B a few minutes ago.
I don’t want to excuse the bad behavior–but I do still explain how, if they were already unstable–experiences can be responded to understandably, but still in a messed up way –(in Character A) or the experiences distorted until the lie becomes the truth in their minds (in character B).
~ HOW I BEGIN ~
When writing a new book, I will often start with whatever scene inspired me to write it in the first place. Then I will begin to write dialogue between the characters until I get a feel for them (or in the case of this sequel, until the reader gets a feel for them, since I already understand who they are. New characters, excepted). The story becomes largely a running dialogue, with very little description, unless it’s some scene that comes to me later. I believe wholeheartedly in the ability of characters to tell you their story. I am often as surprised as a reader would be when a character says something. But what they choose to say, often guides the plot.
I will also use bits and pieces of notes I’ve taken about people and places, and filed away. One of these scenes I used in this book. I shared it with another writer-friend at the time i wrote that odd scene, and she said,”Who is that guy and why is he chasing her?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Well, what’s the point of her climbing through that window?”
“I’m not sure,” I answered.
“Then how do you know what you’re writing about?”
That’s the point. I knew that scene would be useful at some point in one of my books.
I write organically, and I want to experience the story as it unfolds, so that I can enjoy it just as a reader would. That way, I have a clear idea of how it might affect the reader, by knowing how it is affecting me. And this method also insures that I will never tire of the process, or get bored with the story because I don’t really know what’s going to happen, or where it’s all going to end. This doesn’t mean i don’t clean it up and make everything work in concert later, but I just save that for one of the editing passes.
On this book, I initially jumped ahead to a halfway point and wrote a few chapters and then ahead again, to the end. I actually got to the end of the book. I usually don’t like that, because, as I said, I don’t want to know what happens that quickly (though, having finished the book, the ending took place elsewhere and was slightly different, so it was still quite satisfying, even though i had an idea of what would happen. For this story, it was more about the journey than the end).
Writing to the end gave me only around 100 pages, and naturally that’s not enough to make it a book–and it’s tempting to say “maybe this is just a long story…or at best, a novella.” But I know from experience that it only indicates I have not fleshed it out enough, haven’t done the hard work. The story will fill out after I find all the right components to make that happen. I research and I use details about places and people that are largely authentic, as much as possible. In those researched details, more ideas usually emerge. For instance, I found a location, that quite by accident, had the same name as a meaningful word in the previous book. What I call a Happy Accident. And I used it, allowing the character to notice that synchronicity. I wrote about using Google maps when I write my books. There’s a reason for that. I can get all the details I need for moving my characters around, and in the process, I gain grist for the creative mill. I trust that process because I’ve done it so many times.
So–the initial problem, after that first 100 pages, was that the first-person point of view was limiting the story. Somehow it worked for the first book, but this one seemed different. I still did not want to lose that POV, though, because it was such a integral part of the first book–that voice. That main character. So I used first-person with that main character, and when I needed to show the other characters without her in the scene, I would tell their story in third person omniscient, always cuing the reader by using a different chapter each time I did that. That opened the story up immensely, and solved the problem.
Then, I had to start looking for several things:
- were there enough characters to fill out the story? Did I need to add a few new ones? Yes. And I did.
- where are the gaps of time? When that character spoke of the two weeks that had gone by, I had to ask, what did she do during that time?
- How did the new characters interact with the main character, and what’s their backstory?
- Can there be an unexpected alliance between two characters? What’s that dynamic like?
- are there any Happy Accidents in the text just straining to be explored?
This is, of course, not the complete picture of what goes on in the process, but it is a portion of it.
~ AFTERGLOW ~
So, after I have completed a book, I am beset with a sensation of afterglow. I feel I have just had sex. Good sex. So far, I’ve copulated 15 times.