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Advice from Authors [message #18350] Tue, 20 October 2015 22:43 Go to next message
K. Wyse is currently offline  K. Wyse
Messages: 451
Registered: November 2002
Location: Festival State, Oz

Ficathon 2006 Organizer

So I've been re-reading a lot of old stuff and in the author's notes there's usually something about how the plot or characters haven't turned out how they expected and so on. Also, I've been reading writing advice from published authors' blogs, which I thought I'd share in this column. First off: Ilona Andrews, who got this question from a reader:

Quote:
You mentioned in your 5/26 blog needing to plan out the plot for your next book step by step. I've been really intrigued by what you are doing with Clean Sweep and Sweep in Peacehow clearly you must have to know where you are going from start to finish when you can't go back and make changes. John Fowles wrote in the The French Lieutenant's Woman about that moment in a novel when the characters take over, refusing to do what the author wants them to and making their own choices. I know you have more than enough writing to do that is more time-critical, but if you ever have a moment I'd love to hear if that ever happens to you and if you find yourself in tension with your characters when you're writing a serial.


Ilona Andrews is the pen-name for a husband and wife writing team. And I found their answer quite resonant:

Quote:
That never happens to me. This is not a democracy. Gordon and I are ruthless dictators, and we are always keenly aware that the characters aren't really separate entities but simply the products of our imagination. I know that some people state that their characters rule their narrative and they are only helplessly recording, but I suspect it's a shorthand for describing the creative process veering away from the prepared outline.

It is an interesting phenomenon and I think it happens because we change. Every day you are slightly different from the person you were yesterday and the one you will be tomorrow. You are affected by new unique events. What may seem like a good outline one day may appear to be stupid the next. Some people describe that as characters fighting against them. I view it more as a conflict between what the story should feel like and what it feels like now. Despite being logical, I operate mostly on emotion when I engage with books, our own and others'. My emotions change from day to day, sometimes drastically from hour to hour. Every day when you sit down to write, you run the risk that you mind will become fascinated by a different aspect of the story and sometimes, when you are struggling with the narrative, and suddenly your brain presents a different route to get where you are going, it feels like true, genuine inspiration.

For example, Jeaniene Frost and I were chatting about the challenge of taking the side characters and making them into main characters, and I mentioned Derek as an example. Derek is a great side character, but he felt a little flat to me. He is so straight forward that a novel with him as a narrator wouldn't be very interesting. Then, a few hours later, I was tired and bored waiting for Gordon to get home, so I picked a movie on Amazon Prime, mostly because I didn't have to wait for it. It was a badly written movie and I quit it thirty minutes in, but at some point a man describes an assassin zeroing in on someone almost as if he could smell they were still alive.

In that moment, I got Derek's voice in my head. I will sketch a short with him if I get a moment later, so you could see what I meant. Was it inspiration from a movie? Was it because I subconsciously tried to work through the thorny problem of making Derek a main character? I don't know and honestly it kind of doesn't matter.

So to answer your question, we knew how Sweep in Peace would end. That's why there is foreshadowing in the first few chapters. Actually there is so much foreshadowing that I felt we were beating people over the head with it. But the precise course of getting there was dictated by largely day to day brain storming and, to a lesser extent, by reader comments. If the majority of readers was confused to something, we knew we needed to clarify it within the next scene or two. The characters as separate entities capable of making their own choices had very little to do with it.

This may make it sound as if I am hyper-critical of people who "let their characters take the wheel" as one writer put it to me. I am not. The only thing that matters is the final product, the narrative. If it helps the writer to imagine their characters as separate entities capable of making their own choices, then by all means, the writer should let the characters take the wheel. In fiction, there is only one rule: if it works, do it.


source: http://www.ilona-andrews.com/blog/2015/05/27/series-and-othe r-things/


"Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love." - Albert Einstein
Re: Advice from Authors [message #18351 is a reply to message #18350] Thu, 29 October 2015 00:04 Go to previous message
K. Wyse is currently offline  K. Wyse
Messages: 451
Registered: November 2002
Location: Festival State, Oz

Ficathon 2006 Organizer

This week's advice is from Annie Bellet (http://anniebellet.com/) whose Twenty-Sided Soceress has more popular media quotes than I can shake a stick at (she quotes NCIS and Buffy and Princess Bride to name a few).

I really liked this trick she picked up (especially since I'm incredibly lazy about writing):

Quote:
I met another writer at Orycon who insisted that I come hang out at a coffee shop and write-in for NaNoWriMo. I almost didn't go. I don't like writing in busy spaces, I don't really enjoy being around strangers and find socializing draining, and I wasn't sure it would be a useful experience.

I went anyway because, on the other hand, it sounded fun.

Boy am I glad I did.

I wrote 4500 words, the first chapter of a brand new novel. In 3 hours of actual writing time. Around people. And thus I discovered an amazing new way to work.

The structure of the write-in was this: 45 minutes of quiet where we all wrote, followed by 15 minutes of break time where we chatted, got more coffee, etc. Rinse, repeat.

It worked so well for me that I came home and decided to try it here. I didn't have an hourglass (I do now!) so I used an online egg timer for my 45 minutes. Apparently being timed helps me focus, because I write as much in 45 minutes as I used to in an hour to an hour and a half. That's right, 1000 to 1500 words in 45 minutes. Something about knowing that I have to work now but I get a break soon lets me put off the little things I used to let creep into writing time. Want to check my email? It can wait 20 minutes until my time is up. Want more tea? It can wait until my timer is up. 45 minutes is such a short time, just about anything can wait while I get the work done. Plus I can use the timer to mentally trick myself into doing more in the same way I use the timer on the treadmill at the gym to get myself moving longer. Want to finish this chapter? Well, okay, I'll just set another45 minutes. It's less than an hour, I can manage one more session.

And I'm starting to work in little bits of extra writing time. Before, if I didn't have a large chunk of time free, I didn't even bother to start. Now? All I need is 45 minutes.

It seems so simple, but without the NaNo write-in, I'd never have thought to try this. I probably would have shoved it off as "I can't get enough done in 45 minutes" or something.


source: http://anniebellet.com/the-quest-for-productivity/


"Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love." - Albert Einstein
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