Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Children

No, this is not a post about how, SURPRISE, I secretly have four kids living in my closet.*

This is a post about how funny novels are. I love reading posts from authors about how their writing process goes. They usually have unique answers. My favorite is probably Libba Bray's, who famously said, "I drank lots and lots of coffee, and I cried a lot. Also, I've heard I didn't smell good." This is probably closer to truth than anything I've heard. 

But the funny part is how no matter the number of novels you've written and how much you think you have a writing process figured out, it seems like every novel requires a different approach. Like children. Each novel has similarities in style and voice, but also enough differences to show that no, we are not being churned out of a machine.

Recently, I started working on a third novel, and it made me laugh how much different this one was than my last two. Better, for one. My favorite part of starting something new is how noticeably better than writing is, simply because there has been more writing before it. Practice makes perfect. Or improvement, at least.

My first novel swirled around in my head for at least a couple of years. I plotted it out and replotted it out on notecards. My second novel came in a dream. I wrote long character biographies just so I could get to know the characters better. The third one is the scariest for me. For one thing, it's only been around for couple of months in my head. Secondly, it came with a title (The Forever City), which almost none of what I write does. Thirdly, this novel fully encompasses what E. L. Doctorow said: "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

At least, I hope I can make the whole trip that way. Other than a bare, skeletal concept of what is going on, I have no idea what the next scene will entail. I've just been seeing as far ahead as the next couple of paragraphs and doing it that way. I would not consider myself a pantser. I don't like this method. It freaks me out not knowing where I'm going next. But the novel seems to know where it's going, so I guess I have to trust it.

PS I have also been reminded of how much I hate beginnings. They are so awkward and you feel like you have to kick off with something profound and beautiful, when you really know you're probably going to rewrite it four hundred times in the future, so whatever you're putting down doesn't even matter.

*Seriously, I don't have kids, I promise.
**Sorry if I haven't been following your blogs closely in recent days. My family's Internet has been spotty and we're switching companies, so yeah.


  1. You are so, so write! And it makes me think . . . I have such high expectations for my first "real" book (after the practice novels, lol, the first one I'm actively querying, ya know?), just like a first born real live kid. Second child doesn't get all my love and attention. Third child is the baby and I coax and love it and think it can do no wrong. LOL

    See, you got me started ....

  2. I love beginnings! And I'm more of a plot as you go-er anyway, but you're definitely right. Everyone's approach is so different. The idea of having everything plotted out? that scares me. But maybe one of these days I'll start a story that needs to be pre-plotted. Who knows? :)

  3. Actually, I'm not bad at beginnings. It's everything else that trips me up. -__- I wish I were more of a plotter; there'd be less uncertainty in my life. The title of your new WIP intrigues me.