Some writers don’t talk about their work. They think speaking of work in progress jinxes it. I think writers secretly don’t talk about their work for fear of not finishing, or sucking, or both. Understandable. But, I feel if I talk about my work I have to finish. There’s no way out. The last thing I want to hear is, “Hey, weren’t you writing a novel? What ever happened with that?”
So today I am announcing my second novel. I will withhold details until they are solidified. I will release more information as I dream it up, but there will definitely be a second novel, and hopefully a third and fourth and fifth. I love writing and, fortunately for me, a few of you seem to enjoy what I write, too. What could be more fulfilling?
Today, I would like to share with you some small part of my process; a peek under the hood. Not to say that I have a single method or formula—on the contrary. Each time I write something the process is different. Ideas come in many different shapes, some fully formed and others as germs to be nurtured and developed. This new story came to me as a series of ideas that needed to be whittled and refined, forcing me down several paths before focusing on a single, direct approach.
So far, I have written the first handful of chapters four times, looking for a way in. This meant conceiving a complete story and a construction for that story, believing in it, articulating the story with that belief, and then ultimately abandoning it. Three times!
At one point, I was convinced that I was on a roll and even predicted an end date for the first draft. To paraphrase a wonderful old adage, “When you tell God your plans, she just laughs.” Fantastically hilarious in retrospect. What was I thinking?
As an aside, does anyone know how to turn off that grammar green line in Word? I know it’s a damn fragment. Leave me alone. Which reminds me, I was reading Hemingway’s A Movable Feast the other day. I thought if he had a computer with Word the whole page would be green, and a fair amount of red! But I digress.
The characters that I had imagined were, for the most part, quite despicable. Not in an evil way but, at least on the surface, not likable. My challenge was to figure out how to protect my reader from hating my characters and, therefore, hating me.
I know there is a reason, deep down and often hidden, for everyone’s lesser qualities. The bully, the bitch, and the bragger all come from somewhere sad and barren of love and compassion. I needed to figure a way to glimpse into the pasts of my characters, to see the real person without boring or flying off into unnecessary tangents. So I did something I have never before done. I wrote extensive backstories for each of the three main characters.
These stories were lengthy, detailed narratives, each starting in childhood, describing parents, friends and environments. Where they came from and where they went were all important to who they are now. Finding the detail in each helped me build their gestures and conversations, their character arcs, and every motivation for what might come next. Although still despicable, the fabric of their character will reveal who they truly are.
No person is as simple as one story or event makes them out to be. We are complex creatures with pasts and futures. A slice of a person is like a slice of a tree. One might be able to tell the age but not the experiences, which grow, damage, and reshape the whole being.
I hope you will enjoy what comes next. Tune in for further glimpses into the process and progress of the new book. I look forward to it as much as I hope you do.