Monday, November 3, 2008

Thanks Amazon! #18,510 in Books

I need to mark this occasion down so that when my number heads back up into the 400,000 range, I can look back and say, "See Stephenie Meyer, you only beat me by 18,509. Ha!"

So, now I need to get back to finishing THE LOST SISTER. A friend asked me in an email the other night what my process is for writing a book. Do I outline? Do I know where the book is going? Do I have a big picture or do I write scene by scene?

Realizing that I would have to answer his question, I figured that I would post it here for other writers struggling with the same questions. First, let me start off by saying I'm NOT an expert at this. Having only one book published (and another on the verge of being published if I ever finish it), I should NOT be giving advice.

Now that I've made this disclaimer, here goes: everyone has their own writing style. What works for Steven King won't necessarily work for Donna Tartt. What works for Cormac McCarthy won't work for Dennis Lehane. Basically, everyone has their own style, their own timing, their own writing rituals. There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to writing.

I recommended to my friend to check out the National Novel Writing Month and give that a shot. It's a great way to just slam out a book, get words down on the page, ignore the inner critic and just get the story out.

If I were to dissect my own writing style, it would be like putting a puzzle together. But not any puzzle, one of those mystery puzzles where you don't know what the final picture is.

Sometimes I lay out the framework of the puzzle and then try to connect the pieces slowly and efficiently within the frame. (In other words, I've set an outline of the whole story and I know where I'm going, I just need to fill it in.)

Other times, I focus on small areas of the puzzle (in terms of writing, these would be individual scenes). I know that all of these smaller parts need to fit together, so I have to start looking for ways to connect them so that they make sense in a larger picture. When I write this way (without an outline), I can't really see where the story (or the puzzle) is going until I have enough of the puzzle put together and the story starts to emerge from the random pieces.

This is by far my favorite way of writing, because I like to be surprised by the outcome as much as the reader. Yet, this is also the most difficult way of writing, because it's so open-ended. You can end up putting the wrong pieces together, getting frustrated and throwing the whole puzzle away. Or, you can leave it on the table for awhile and look at it, come back to it every now and then and see if you can fit a piece in here or there. Eventually, if you are dedicated enough and want to see the final picture, you will stick with it until the puzzle reveals itself to you.

There are some writers that are so strict with an outline, a daily word count and deadlines. I'm not one of those writers. Then again, I'm not a writer who waits for "the muse to whisper in my ear." I've waited long and hard for that muse, and she constantly bypasses my house.

I've also heard writers say that the characters talk to them. God, that would make my life so much easier! No, my characters don't talk to me (maybe that's a good thing considering writers already have a reputation for being a little out there). But there are times when I'm writing that I will surprise myself and the story takes unexpected turns, characters do things that I wasn't planning on having them do and connections are made that I didn't see until I completed the whole puzzle...I mean picture...I mean story.

So, there you have it. My writing style is a mystery puzzle, even to myself.