It's been a lot of fun reading the He Wrote / She Wrote blog by Jennifer Cruisie and Bob Mayer as they collaborate on their next novel. I am continuously amazed at how my style of writing seems to be down the middle between what they each do. (And since I really love Cruisie's work and Bob is becoming a favorite as well, it makes sense, I suppose, that their styles are similar to mine.)
Bob likes to outline; he's very linear, very action oriented. Jenny likes to meander around the character for a while, trying to get to know them, figure out their internal stories first, then the external. I end up doing an amalgamation of both. (I'm a Gemini. Maybe that explains it. Or maybe I'm just weird.)
I think I sort of drive my husband nuts for a while during the initial process of the book, though. I'll tell him I have the story, not to worry. (Because he worries. A lot. This whole book a year for three years thing is great, he's excited, but it also makes him very nervous.) So I reassure him, that of course I have it figured out. Then I'll start to pick his brain about south Louisiana locations. Carl's been in places few people from here have even seen, much less been in, and he's got an artist's eye for details and an amazingly good memory for characters (people he's met and their unique personalities). Carl is my secret weapon when I'm first putting together the direction a book will go because I couldn't get some of the stuff he already knows from pure research as quickly as I can just sit down and bug him. He doesn't mind (I think he enjoys it), but the phase I'm in at this point when I'm asking him the questions is not the linear phase... it's the meandering around getting to know the people and places phase, the Jenny phase, the blank stare when Carl asks me a simple question phase.
"You have how long to turn in this book?" he'll ask, and I'm pretty sure his blood pressure ratcheted up a few points.
I think he's a whole lot grayer than he was at this time last year. oops.
Me? It doesn't bother. This is how I work. I've got a sort of rudimentary linear outline. I know that in the beginning (page 1, literally), an event happens which is going to send Bobbie Faye carreening around trying to solve a pretty big problem with some pretty big ramifications if she doesn't solve them. I know some of the twists, some of the things which will escalate the problem into a much bigger and more personal problem. I've gotten to know the characters pretty well through writing pages and pages (two five-subject notebooks' worth for book 2) on just character detail: their emotional journey, why they do what they do, what they want, what they don't want, how this affects the others, etc. I'm pretty settled on how I'll do that first few pages so that readers who aren't familiar with Bobbie Faye from book one will know her pretty well without having to go backward and read the book. I'll spend the next couple of weeks working out more of the later details while I start the writing of the chapters.
The fun part -- and the scary part -- is that I don't try to figure out every detail of the story as I go. I keep a list of things that I need to figure out, questions I've set up that I need to answer, (both plot-wise and character-wise). And by list, I mean, I tend to remember them and then toward the end of the book, make massive notes in frantic red print all over the notebooks making sure I don't forget to tie up the loose ends.
Still, there are discoveries along the way which are a blast and surprise me. I won't know where they come from or why, but something about a particular character will present itself, and I'll realize it takes the character in a much better direction than I would have predicted. Or certain aspects of a location will present itself as an opportunity to do something better than I'd planned. Or I'll realize something about a character due to having grown with him or her throughout the story and I'll weave backward to set up that better.
(One hopes.)Posted by toni at January 29, 2006 12:27 PM