Sunday, July 12, 2009
Summer is for getting your (oh-so-tanned) arms around the story.
I envy people who can work all year round, whatever the weather. For me, winter is the time to write, to sit inside and tell myself stories. But the story I tell depends on how I spend my summer brainstorming. As writers the imagination, or that damn voice inside your head -- whatever you call it -- works all the time, while we're weeding the garden, driving the car, or taking a walk in the sunshine. Can we call this work? Some would scoff but it seems necessary, this thinking time. And doing it outside in the summer is fine with me. I live in the Rocky Mountains where summer is a scarce commodity. (This year it just arrived!)
But it can't all stay in my head. I have to write stuff down like everybody else. This year I'm trying some new tricks gleaned from writers more organized than I am. At the beginning of the year I started my annual writing journal in a file on my computer. I pumped myself up, wrote down ideas for characters and plots, zoomed around the internet cutting and pasting research and background stuff. I bought lovely but basic spiral notebooks from Clairefontaine with thick, smooth paper. I downloaded a couple outlining programs, Inspiration and Tinderbox, as trials. I have yet to get organized enough to actually make an outlining program work for me but I like the idea. (Maybe in the fall...) The computer writing journal has gone a bit fallow after I started writing in the spiral notebooks. I have been filling them up with ideas, notes for things to research, bits of scenes, and character sketches. I have no idea why the spiral notebooks from the Dollar Store aren't as inspiring. Maybe it's the French thing? I am a serious Francophile, as you can figure from my new book, set in the Dordogne. All I know is the paper quality is on a level rarely found in Staples.
Another author, Jeff Abbott, wrote about these notebooks and how writing longhand makes him slow down and think more. It seems to be true. I am such a fast typist after all these years that I can almost type as fast as I think and often run out of things to say. Writing longhand lets my brain whirl a bit. (Hey -- Pun alert -- put in some peas and I'll have whirled peas.) My brain is a whirler. It is not methodical and logical, at least in this stage of writing. It leaps from thought to thought, ADD-like, from what-if to how-about. It knows no mistress.
In other words, it's a mess. But writing ideas down straightens the mess out, makes it logical, makes me see the patterns in the chaos. Writing a novel is basically an organizational chore, getting the first-second-third parts, weaving in patterns to richen the texture, finding the pace that works, cutting out the dull stuff, and seizing the right bit of background that makes a character come alive.
For my new novel of suspense, Blackbird Fly, I rewrote the book so many times I've forgotten all the organizational struggles. But starting a new novel, fresh and summery as a bouquet, is exciting. All these new what-ifs! At least it's exciting while I'm still whirling about it. Ask me again in January.
Posted by Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson at 7:40 pm