Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How I Write: Backgrounding the Book (for next time)

This book writing thing has been hard for me. This first one is nearly done and  I feel as if I know less now then I did when I started. The more you know, the more you realize there is to learn, I guess.

How do you approach character development/plotting-arc building/world building? For ease, I will just call it Backgrounding. Because that is absolutely what I didn’t do.

I approached this book all wrong. And now I can’t even remember how I did. I had an idea, and it was big. I guess that is the first thing that was wrong. I wanted this story to represent something and I tried to tell it without considering the tale itself (plot), the world (an off kilter reality that I am only now getting in touch with--3 years in), or my main character (she morphs even as we speak).

This is what I have learned on this first book, DON’T START WRITING TOO SOON! I am going to do much of this Backgrounding in my head before I even write the first word of my next draft. I wrote too soon last time

(although I will say that it helped me to get the required amount of words in. You can never write too many words or take too long. Right? I am right, right? Tell me I am right.).

My friend Jon makes buttons and plaques and plotmapthings before he begins to write, playing and trying to see the story. My friend Heather makes playlists and writes out character motivations. My friend Marisa swears by her outline, says if she ever diverges she just makes a mess of things. My friend Dena has a book with a terribly complicated plot that seems to be writing itself, but she must already know everything about it. Kate imagines here character doing the things that she does everyday(just look at her imaginary friends post from today). She says if you spend that much time with them, when you sit down to write you are bound to know what they will do as you throw the hard situations at them (she needs jokes by the way). Paul describes using voice journals and here is Elana’s comment on that post:I’ve never done this, not in quite the way you’re describing. But I have just let my characters talk to find their voice. I put them in a high-stress situation and write out what they say — or don’t say. Then I do a scene where they’re alone and see what they notice. If they talk to themselves. Etc. It helps me ground myself with who they are and how they talk, what they notice, what they don’t, how they describe things, etc. That’s helped. Now doesn’t that sound smart?

I learned most of this in The Practice Room or from folks' recent blog posts. I am going to try all of the above before I start drafting the next book, so as not to try to reinvent the wheel next time.

I also plan to use these lovely resources:
The Snowflake Method: This will walk me through a long involved process considering all the above things. I am so doing this! See how Jon does it.

This clever little nine point plot resource will help me consider the highs and lows of my story, see them visually and how they relate to each other.