Thursday, June 3, 2010

Prolific? Not so much.

I bet it took longer than six months for Tolkien to get this map right!
And where did he learn to write like that?
Oh, yeah. He invented a few languages and the most fully developed fantasy world ever.

I've been slaving on my WIP for a year and 8 months. I will say that at the beginning of that process, my understanding of structure, voice, POV etc. was limited to what I learned in high school. My high school english teachers were amazing, but still, there's a huge learning curve. Things like passive voice and the really real rules for commas were a mystery to me. Don't tell, but I still overcomma after the word 'but'. 

My WIP started out at as fodder for that box under the bed that every writer is required to have. Mine might end up in a box under my bed, on top of my old charcoal sketches of cow skulls (classic art class stuff!), but it's mostly better now.

My idea changed. Characters got older. The stakes got higher with every rewrite (still happening!). I renamed half the characters. Ok, all of them if you go back to my very first attempts. Everything has changed from my initial concept, except for the essence of my protagonist and her character arc. I just had to figure out how what situations would cause her to grow how I knew she could.

This took a long time. Not the ten years it took Susanna Clarke to write Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but it's felt really long and a bit circuitous.

I don't want the next book to take so long. Please, please, please, Second Story, don't be so hard to pin down.

I've been told that the secret to that is Outlining *enter heavenly choir*. Check out this awesome post on plotting over at Teresa Frohock's blog. She organized in a way that I can only dream of and a fabulous writer and friend. I fully expect to see her books in stores in the next 2 years.

I've been told (no link, this was at a writer's conference) that research is the key, that if you do your character sketch and research your setting, that the story will unfold like a beautiful flower. Okay, perhaps that's an exaggeration, but that was the general idea.

It's been said that using personality profiles, interviewing your characters, and drawing pictures of them will help you to know them better.

I've even heard of a novelist who starts every book by drawing a detailed map and fitting the story to the map.

I'm not sure which of these ways will work for me. Right now I'm trying research, and my brain is boiling.

How do you develop a niggling idea into a full plot?


  1. My characters develop with the plot. So when I revise, I have to work on fleshing out my characters. I've tried starting with characters, but they always change as the plot develops. It's what works for me.

    BTW, second books go much, much faster. :)

  2. Connie- that is just what I wanted to hear!
    Thanks for the encouragment. I can just see myeslf, twenty years from now, finishing a trilogy;) Nothing wrong with that, just not what I hope.

  3. One step at a time, that's how we will all get there, right? We need to remember to find joy in the process (mostly cuz the process is so dang long!)

  4. I'm an outliner myself, but I realize that's not for everyone. Guess I should mention I'm an outlining convert (Bob is only the second book I've written with an outline), but I'm all for it. I've already scrapped one idea at the outlining stage just because the plot wasn't developing. And it was nice to discover that then than eighty pages into the manuscript:)

  5. Tess- I think that's the appeal of drawing. It's just fun. getting old, but still, it's exciting to get a better version on paper.

    Krista- do you think that you could have worked it out if you'd had to? I hit a couple spots where I had to really think about how toi get fram A to C because B wasn't working, but the answer was there. I'm all about not wasting time, I'm just not sure that I can really get into the story with the physical act of writing it. Hmmm.

  6. I've been working on my current WIP on and off for about four years :P The first year, I was busy trying to graduate college and plan a wedding so it didn't get much past the planning stage. Then I did NaNo in 2007 and got a good chunk of it written. However, it's changed a great deal too--MC had a new name, I cut out a few characters and POVs and just recently added a new plot twist. I am going to get it done this year.

    My issue is all the research...since my book takes place in a different culture and time, I have a lot ahead of me. I've done a lot already but there's a great deal more that needs done too (I'll probably have to enlist the help of a few friends who live over in the country to help me with the culture).

    I'd love to draw my characters...only I don't have that skill :P

  7. Thanks for stopping by, ITWM! Sorry to be so lazy. It takes me multiple tries to skip spaces in between words;)

    I admire you for tackling historical fiction. I'm not sure if I could keep track of sources!

    I don't really have the drawing skill either. Just cow skulls.

  8. Kelly, I'm not sure if it would have worked out. It wasn't so much of a plot hole as it was a general feeling of not-workingness about the whole setup.

    There are elements of that idea that I still really like. Actually, it's the idea that Bob grew out of, but Bob went in a completely different direction, so I may go back to it. Someday...