February 19th, 2010

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Some Very Long-Winded Thoughts on How I Write Novels

It takes me several years to write a novel.

For example, this is a not-so-quick summery of the process for writing Smashing:  Collapse )  

Which is all to say, I've been obsessing over what my next project is supposed to be. I've started writing something, but 40+ pages in, I have a lot of characters running around and not a terrible amount of plot. It doesn't seem to be going anywhere. I've read so much lately about plotting and the craft of writing and "how to write a novel by following a set of 10 simple instructions." I read about the "Snowflake Method" and diagramming for plot, and the 20 Master Plots. And having read all that, and having a bunch of characters running around in my head, how could I not know what I'm writing about?

I think the simple answer is, I don't know because the characters haven't told me. And even when they do, they might tell me the wrong thing, and I'll probably have to start over a dozen times.  I'm on year 5 of writing Smashing (although possibly year... uhm, I don't feel like doing the math) because it takes time. And sometimes, I have to write in order to know what I'm writing about. Yes, I think outlining and a general idea of where a project is headed is a good idea. But for this project, it's looking more and more like that's for later drafts.

So here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to keep letting these new characters run around for a bit. I'm going to let my narrator tell me what she's thinking and doing. Eventually, I'll have a shitty first draft. It might go somewhere, it might not. It may have no plot at all. I don't care anymore. I can't force the story, if there is one. I'm going to have to wait it out.

Which is very frustrating, because now when people ask, "So, you write? What are you working on?" my answer is a big, "I have no idea." And of course, saying, "Well, I'm waiting for the voices in my head to tell me," out loud seems a bit silly.