Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Got Words?

by Stephanie Black

I am happy to announce that I have written some honest-to-goodness words on my new novel. Yep, I am now the proud owner of approximately 2200 words of story. Granted, those words aren’t all actual story, because in my first draft I like to write a mini-scene-structure outline at the top of a scene: scene goal, conflict, hook. I’ll delete those notes in the second draft. But for now, I can include them in my word count, can’t I?

Starting this novel was a bit daunting for me because when I finished my last project I had absolutely no idea what my next novel would be about. No idea. Zip. I knew I wanted to do another contemporary suspense novel like Fool Me Twice, my novel scheduled for release next spring. But as far as a story? Umm . . .

This was a new experience. Previously, when I’d set out to write a novel, I'd I worked off ideas that had been percolating for a long time. This time . . . nothing was percolating. I did have some scenes in mind and enjoyed playing with them mentally, but unfortunately these scenes belonged to a sci fi story that I knew I didn’t want to write as my next book.

I am awed and amazed by writers—and this is probably every writer in the world except me—who have so many plot ideas that their motto is “I’ll never have time to write all of them!” Some people have dozens of projects in the works. Not me. I tend to immerse myself in one story. The ideas for my first novel percolated for years. An offshoot idea from that first book led eventually to my recently completed novel, though the books are completely unrelated.

For this newest project, I was starting from scratch. So I brainstormed. I filled page after page with random thoughts. Finally, ideas started to stick and form and take shape and now—hooray! A story! After creating a VERY rough outline, I’m through the starting gate and on the track. The plot is still riddled with more holes than Jeff Savage’s socks, the characters are stick figures, and for Pete’s sake, who did commit those murders that took place five years before the book opens? I'll figure it all out eventually. I like Anne Lamott’s advice—I’ll have to paraphrase it here—that authors should give themselves permission to write lousy first drafts. I know my first draft is going to be an utter mess, and that’s fine. Giving myself permission to write a lousy draft means I can get those words down and find the story. I then rewrite like crazy as I clean up the story, expand it, deepen it, and layer it. It will take me longer to rewrite the book than it will to draft it in the first place, and that’s the way I like to work.

So my goal this afternoon is to add a few hundred more words to the story. Forward march!


11 Comments:

At 6/13/2007 5:11 PM, Blogger Josi said...

I used to have a million ideas, but the last two books I've written have been what I call 'dry' meaning I've had to drill deep under the surface of my ability to find the story. I like the advice of the lousy first draft. I've been horrible in my current WIP in that I spend hours of writing time revising what I've already done. I'll go weeks without writing anything new, which really sucks my motivation.

Great advice, and congrats! Good day indeed

 
At 6/13/2007 5:16 PM, Blogger The Casual Geek said...

As a writer wanna-be, I have struggled with the idea of "it's okay to write a lousy first draft." I've recently completed my lousy first draft of my first novel, and I'm still in the process of getting it all typed up so I can go forward with the revision process (working two jobs is really slowing this process down, though). And that took me about two and a half years of sporadic writing to get this far! I hope the revision goes at least a little faster, or this thing will never get done...

 
At 6/13/2007 5:17 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

I have a million ideas, and about about one billionth of them are good. I've previously mentioned the adventures of three Vietnamese roommates. That's still there.

 
At 6/13/2007 7:59 PM, Blogger Jon said...

So, Stephanie, will you ever get around to writing that Sci-Fi book? ;)

I just read about the Strangites (strangites.org for more details; very Strang, err, Strange) I feel like there's a Life of Brian story in there somewhere.

 
At 6/13/2007 8:11 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

The funny thing about the sci fi book is I won't be able to write it as I originally envisioned it because I snatched its central plot idea (I wrote part of the book a few years ago) and used it in my just-completed contemporary novel. But I do have an idea for how to alter the book so I could keep much of the story but give it a different twist. So I think the answer is yes--someday I'll write the book.

 
At 6/14/2007 12:53 PM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

I applaud your new words. I'm more like rob. I have a million ideas. The problem is that they are all great beginnings, but no plot is formed, no character developed. Just phantom ideas haunting my head.

 
At 6/14/2007 1:03 PM, Blogger Cheri said...

I got into trouble once while speaking to a writer's group in Utah. I was asked if I do an outline before writing each book, and I don't. Evidently this was a sin. =)I tend to dive in and write the story as it comes, then I go back and revise, polish, etc.

Stephanie---congrats again on your new book that's coming out next spring, and best of luck with the draft. Incidentally, do you come up with an outline first? =)

 
At 6/14/2007 1:23 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Of course you can count your scene description/outline-y things in your word count! They'll TURN INTO scenes, right? (If you can't count them, then I can't either, and I do . . .) Congrats on stepping forward!

 
At 6/14/2007 1:55 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Yay, I can count my scene descriptions!

Cheri, I write a VERY rough outline before beginning a book. I can't just sit down and start writing--I need an idea of where the book is going. But I won't know exactly how I'm going to get from Chapter 1 to The End until I write it. I don't work out detailed scenes beforehand or anything like that. It's not until I start writing that the story will really find form--and it will take multiple drafts for it to reach final form.

Thanks to everyone for the kind words!

 
At 6/14/2007 2:08 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Hey, Stephanie, I even count "Chapter One" as two words. :) I can't wait to read your new release -- you know what a big "Believer" fan I am; I'm bound to love anything you've written.

 
At 6/16/2007 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Tristi! You made my day!

Stephanie

 

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