Last month I posted about endings, then tried my own suggestion: I wrote a possible final chapter. Once I had it, of course I had to write the scene that would come immediately before it. Then I wrote the scene before that one, and on back, scene by scene, until my ending scenes connected with the chapters I’d written from the beginning.
I had a complete first draft. Finally!
And it was fun to write the story backwards. It was freeing. It was crazy, loose writing—a lot of dialogue—and I admit that the manuscript is now a mess. But a first draft is done. The story now has a shape (an emotional arc) and the characters have come alive, and I can begin to dig deeper into scenes and add sensory details and check for continuity, etc.
The best part is that along the way, I had fun! I got a flow going. I gave myself permission to let go. To relax. Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged craft, creativity, dialogue, drafting, fiction, first draft, gel pen, manuscript, plot, process, scenes, story, uni-ball, uniball, writing
During one of JRW’s twitter-chats (#jrwc12) with upcoming conference speakers, we were posing questions for Kristen-Paige Madonia, author of Fingerprints of You, and she tweeted that she’d spent four years getting to know her characters. Four years? Ouch. I’d hoped to have a second novel under contract before my first appears, but I’m not so sure I’ll meet that goal. I’ve been struggling with my next novel, wondering whether my story works, and fearing I might have to banish it to a drafts-folder.
But Madonia’s comment gave me hope. Rather than lamenting that sometimes it takes as long as four years to write a novel, I’ve felt relieved. It’s okay! I don’t have to beat myself up over the next one not yet working. I’m breathing deeply again. I’m not under contract. I can take my time. Pfew. If it takes my characters four years to reveal themselves to me, well then, that’s what it will take. Implicit in my deep breaths is a new confidence that it will happen. I’d been rushing the writing, and now I’m slowing down and re-learning how to trust the process.
This past week I’ve been reading Getting into Character by Brandilyn Collins, an approach to novel-writing based on techniques in method-acting. I’m trying out her suggestion to interview my protagonist, and the kid is talking up a storm. Few if any of his ramblings will make it into the novel, but in absorbing his world-view, I hope I’ll be able to make his presence on the page authentic. Let’s see if I can do it… Let’s see if it takes me four years…
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Tagged Brandilyn Collins, character, conference, dialogue, Kristen-Paige Madonia, process, protagonist, revision, twitter, VCFA, writing
Voice. Sympathetic characters. Narrative pace. Dialogue tags. Emotional arcs. These are the sorts of topics we tackled at Vermont College of Fine Arts. In January 2011, I graduated from the low-residency MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults there, and I’m going through serious withdrawal. Maybe blogging will help…
Vermont is a place where critique doesn’t mean line-edits, but means discussing theme and desire-lines and narrative structure and how a writer intensifies or slows the pace. It’s a place where students are encouraged to play while being pushed to write the novel that comes from the heart—the one only you can write because it’s so you—the one so personal and particular that it touches on the universal—on what it means to be human.
Vermont changed me. It changed my writing. It changed the way I read. During residencies, we called it our own little Narnia. Such a magical place. In this blog, I’ll only skim the surface, and will apologize in advance for my “you had to be there” tone which is so hard to block, because, well… yeah…