Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Sunday, June 01, 2008

In The Time It Takes

by Sariah S. Wilson

This is what sleep deprivation causes. Yesterday I wrote out a post. Idiot that I am, I wrote it directly into Blogger (instead of Word and saving it). I thought I pushed publish post. I walked away from my computer and my husband shut it down for me later on. I came over to the site today because usually I get some sort of response when I post and hadn't received any notices of comments. That's when I realized I had no post.

Of course now that I have to recreate it, it'll probably be much shorter because 1) it is annoying to have to redo something you've already done and annoyance cuts down on my verbosity and 2) nothing is ever as good the second time (writing-wise) as it was the first time.

I recently went to a seminar provided by my local RWA chapter. A very famous NYT bestselling author was the presenter (she is working on a new workshop and was using us as guinea pigs, which is good because hey, free workshop by NYT bestselling author!). She was talking about how to write scenes, how to find the juice in each scene and write each beat (comparing novel writing to movie writing).

This sort of thing, honestly, typically confuses me. I did study writing and I learned some profoundly important things before I ever tried to write a book (i.e., apparently going from one character's point of view to another and then back again mid-scene is not good).

But could I explain how I do what I do? Nope. That's why it always amazes me when other authors are able to break it down and explain it to everybody else. Unfortunately, even when they explain, it still doesn't help me. It doesn't figure in to how I write. I just...write. The story manages to come together on its own somehow. I don't do overall rewrites - I write a scene the way I want it to be and typically don't change it. I don't know why it works. I don't question it. It just seems to work out.

So, when this author began talking about all these sorts of ways to improve your story, a part of me started to tune it out. Particularly since I'd brought my baby with me and she is unbelievably cute and entertaining. (I also seem to have this problem in church sometimes. The baby's cuteness manages to enthrall not only me, but many of our pew neighbors.)

This writer had not too long ago been at the Maui Writers Conference, which sounds like a great thing to do if you have a few thousand dollars lying around. You get the chance to interact and work with very famous authors who mentor you on a personal basis, and offer really neat workshops (although if I took the baby with me I'd be sunk).

A woman at the meeting had gone and been in the famous writer's workshop in Maui. The aspiring author had broken down each scene in her book with a tiny index card where she had pasted a picture to represent the juice of each scene, along with helpful reminder phrases. She had a binder full of this sort of thing, based on the teachings of the famous author.

Now, this famous author has in the past shared that she likes to put together 3D collages to remind her of where her story is going. These collages are intricate and detailed. She spends a long time putting them together, but gains great inspiration from them while she's writing. This isn't something I could ever see myself doing, but it obviously works very well for her. NYT bestselling and all that.

But this index card system...I thought of the time it must have taken her to type them up and find pictures and paste them on and then put them in the little plastic sleeves of her binder which she had decorated on the outside with her 2D collage...and I felt tired.

I thought, I could probably write an entire book in the time it took her to get that thing put together.

But not everyone writes the way that I write. Some people need to express their creativity in other ways before they can express it in writing.

I certainly do my fair share of outlining and brainstorming, but nothing very elaborate. I'm thinking it would probably be very easy to get caught up in making a collage or a binder pre-write. You could spend all of what little writing time you have on those efforts. And I'd rather focus on the actual writing.

My question to you then is if you do anything visual or physical like this. Do you have something artsy or crafty that you do that helps with your writing? Do you find that it helps or hinders you in writing?


At 6/01/2008 11:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that binder idea would work very well for me. I'm a very visual person. Except that I can never seem to find pictures that match what I have in my brain. If I was an artist, I'd be in business, but I'm not. I do like the idea though. I might just give it a try.

Even more than visual, I'm moved and inspired by music. As a kid, my mom and sister and I used to listen to classical music and talk about the story that we heard in it. It's always worked for me. Find the right genre for what you want to write, and music can plot it for you. Of course, I have been told that I'm strange that way...

At 6/02/2008 12:08 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

I don't do anything physical or visual. It's all about the words for me. I brainstorm by typing ideas in a brainstorming file. I write, get more ideas when I write, and do lots of rewriting.

I think it's interesting that we all have different styles and what works wonderfully for one writer wouldn't work at all for another.

At 6/02/2008 1:15 AM, Blogger Stephanie Humphreys said...

I'm still trying to figure out what works the best for me. Whenever I do too much pre-planning, I don't get the story written at all. I just let the words spill out and fix what needs fixing later.

At 6/02/2008 2:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Four mile run. 6.5 minute pace. Works every time. Except when its raining. The muse dislikes the rains very much. He (I really do think the muse is a he, good for you all you desperate romance writers) does not like cold, rain, or excessive heat. And he prefers a good fetta cheese salad over chocolate (gotcha again romance authors). In fact, if I were a romance author I'd pretty much stick to the 3D collages, the plasticated binders with 3 x 5 cards and the Maui conferences. The muse is not your kind of guy.

As for Sariah? When are you going to write a children's literature bestseller? Your daughter should be more than enough inspiration.


At 6/02/2008 8:48 AM, Blogger Tamra Norton said...

I don't have the energy to do anything creative to get the muse going. It's all about BIC! I have to get my bum in the chair, read what I wrote last (and do some minor editing), and get going from there.

At 6/02/2008 11:48 AM, Blogger Jennie said...

I've plotted, diagramed,outlined, looked for pictures, then I finished the class and just do whatever strikes my fancy. I research as I go, sometimes I write favorite scenes then go back and string them together, mostly I start at the beginning and work straight through--throwing out most or all of my first chapter before I reach the end. I have a vivid enough imagination that I don't need dolls, panoramas, scrap books, or any other kind of arts and crafts props. I have a friend who says she thinks she was born with a movie camera in her head and I can identify with that. I might like a memento of my writing experience with some of my books such as a topaz ring or a jeweled bracelet, but they aren't writing props; they were props for the artists who did my covers.

At 6/02/2008 12:10 PM, Blogger Karlene said...

The only visual thing I do is find photos of the actors who would play my characters if it were made into a movie. Then I use their physical attributes to help keep me on track when I'm describing my characters. All that other stuff would just take way too much time.

At 6/02/2008 1:30 PM, Blogger Melanie said...

I listen to RWA stuff all the time (I have a very active local chapter) and no one's process seems the same. That actually makes me feel much better because I'm hoping it means the way I'm doing it isn't wrong. I work kind of like Tamra said, where I read what I wrote yesterday and pick up from there. At first, I started with character sketches, outlines, etc., but found I went back and amended them based on where my story was going, which seemed to defeat their purpose! One cool little thing I picked up from a NYT bestseller presenter was that she cuts out pics of what her main characters look like because she's not a visual person and will forget later in the story things like their eye color, so I did that and it helped. Except it took a long time to find just those few pictures so I think I would do that for only my most major elements. Is anyone going to the RWA Conference in SF this summer?

At 6/02/2008 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a very creative person, so while I dont make collages, I have a binder with pictures of my MC's and scenery I like for my book. I also have a half size notebook that I make notes in and I paste things in it like my plot outlines. (for example my MC uses Yoga and my own set of Chakras in the book. I have them typed out and the symbols drawn so I can look at them when I need them.) I take this places where I can't take my lap top.

When it comes to actual writing I am a SIC writer I sit in the chair look at the last few sentences and start writing. It is during the revision and rewriting process that I use the little note book the most.

When I get writers block or am just in need of a distraction is when I usually do something like go looking for pictures or update my little book.


At 6/02/2008 7:21 PM, Blogger Anna Maria Junus said...

I've heard about all these different things, and I hav no idea how to do it.

My writing style - start at the beginning and go to the end. No jumping around. Then put it away for awhile and bring it back out for a rewrite and addition of scenes.


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