Lots of people have ideas for novels and novellas, and often write several chapters of the book they have in mind. Taking an idea from infancy to completion is sometimes a challenge, it’s one of the main reasons I love to write, but it’s also an area where writers struggle. Such is with a colleague of mine. He had such a clear understanding of where he thought he was going, but can’t see to budge now. He asked me a question; it was an interesting one, “When you write, where does your head go?”
Writing a story that a child believes took place or possibly could, is a fascinating process. It’s just that, a process, and organization is a key factor. Outlines are mandatory, as is a synopsis and keeping records of characters and their traits is critical. So where does my head go, forty thousand words into a novel, another sixty thousand to go? “Be still, visualize and listen,” I said, and for a moment he thought I was talking to him. I couldn’t help but smile and added, “Not you, me. I tell myself that.” I’m a visual writer and must visualize the chapter prior to writing it. This takes time, and if I’m writing two novels, which is often the case (fairies, ghost, or even a teen book), clearly two different mindsets. From lovely and magical, to scary, and ultimately dealing with teen issues, reality, which is often brutal, visualization helps the chapters come together.
I’m certain every writer develops a process of his or her own, but for me, especially during the early stages of a novel, part of my process is working backwards. Taking note of what a character’s traits aren’t or what couldn’t possibly take place in a chapter, and documenting the reasons why, versus what the story line should dictate. Now, this takes a minute. For example: Instead of creating a character by design, this character will be bold, beautiful, strong, I’ll tear a character down. Tearing down a character instead of creating one, to me, reveals the characters true weaknesses and strengths. This shows me, the writer, who the character is supposed to be, and that creates a believable character. I always ask, answer, dispute, and answer again, a multitude of questions. Answers left reveal the only possible way the chapter should, not could, be written. This is how I do it, and it may not work for everyone, not even my friend. “Do you see what I mean?” I asked him. He nodded. “I hadn’t thought about it like that,” he said. “I just knew that my story line was headed here, until I couldn’t get there.” We visited a while longer and I told him that he’ll find his own process; if he can use mine, go for it.
Spring break in Texas is almost over, and its safe to say that I miss my desk. I’m at a critical junction in my novel The Greenlee Project. I know exactly what my character Greenlee wouldn’t do, that will lead me to what she would do, and knowing why she’d do it that particular way will help me write the next part. “Time to be still, visualize, and listen.”