Great fiction, from my point of view, happens when beautiful lies smash up against essential truths. Something, I suppose, every author strives to achieve—though everyone has a different method of getting into the mindset that allows that kind of discovery. My guess is that most authors and artists are stable people with somewhat neurotic tendencies—so that whatever system slides us into our creative groove demonstrates a certain degree of controlling and obsessive behavior (whether it’s perfect silence, certain kinds of music, hours of the day…or in my case, pajamas or a coffee house, usually Starbucks).
How authors plan (or don’t plan) their books is another matter entirely, but one that is just as important.
You all know that I write by the seat of my pants. I am a pantser. Outlines be gone. Synopsis, show not thy wretched face. Nothing personal. Just the way I do things. There’s something delightful in chugging along while creating a book and experiencing, along with the characters, the unfolding adventure. Muddling through. And let me tell you, there’s nothing more raw or lovely when it goes right.
But when it’s not going right, when the story clogs and backs up and all you can do is take the plunger to the you-know-what—it’s bad. Really, really, bad. And, in my case, it’s been happening more and more as I write. Blocks. Stoppages. Realizations that there are major questions I haven’t addressed, which require backtracking, rewrites (of course, that was going to happen anyway), and other head-banging moments that not even a stereo pumped full of 80’s power ballads can save me from.
So, I’m going try something different with this next book. I’m not going to get down and spell out every detail of every chapter, but dudes, this chick is gonna hammer herself out a plan. I’m going to get like I’m back in high school, with a notebook covered in fancy stickers and post-it notes, and those pages are going to be filled with questions and answers, each of which will help me move deeper into the story, and the characters. Not quite an outline, not quite a synopsis, but something in between that gets me mulling over the deep dark issues, the what ifs, so that I can still discover the novel and its adventure, still carve a new path, but with the strength of certain ideas at my back.
That, or this is going to be a great way of procrastinating before I sit down and write the book. Which, in all likelihood, will look nothing like I planned.
Anyway, NaNoWriMo is coming up. And here are some great links on planning out your book, most of them courtesy of PBW, who is the Queen Mother of good writing advice and outline preparation.
PS: Totally unrelated, but this cool blog talks briefly about a school in Shetland that has only a handful of students—and a separate knitting teacher! A knitting teacher! Isn’t that cool?
Here’s a concept so simple it’s easy to miss: What men want from an Elmore Leonard novel is exactly what women want from a Nora Roberts novel � escape and entertainment. And while it’s true that manfiction can be guilty of objectifying women, chick lit often does the same thing to men. Reading Sandra Brown or Jodi Picoult, I’m sometimes reminded of an old Julie Brown song, ‘’I Like ‘Em Big and Stupid.’’ One memorable couplet goes, ‘’My father’s out of Harvard, my brother’s out of Yale/Well, the guy I took home last night just got out of jail.’’
Is this a bad thing? From an entertainment standpoint, I’d say not. Women like stories in which a gal meets a handsome (and possibly dangerous) hunk on a tropic isle; men like to imagine going to war against an army of bad guys with a Beretta, a blowtorch, and a submachine gun (grenades hung on the belt optional).
See, I like books where women meet a handsome (and possibly dangerous) hunk—and then the both of them go to war against an army of bad guys with guns, blowtorches, and grenades (psychic powers optional). Ah, well.