Monday, March 31, 2008

Novel 101 and etc.

Singing "Flew in from Richmond V-A American Connection" just doesn't have the same ring to it as "Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC" (3 points to the first one to identify song AND album!), but those are the lyrics that've been running through my brain since I arrived home yesterday afternoon. I'm planning a post about my fun in Charlottesville later this week, with pictures, but until then, you can read Therese's account here. I'll just mention, very quickly, the grapefruit martinis rocked!

Last month I wrote about my buddy Laura Bradford and her efforts to raise awareness and money to fight Multiple Sclerosis. Many of you asked how you could help. Here you go . . . On April 13 I'm joining other friends and writers to walk with Laura--you can join us from afar by making a pledge to our team--we've nearly reached our goal of $2000.

Now, updates to my WIP, tentatively titled Spinning.  One nice thing--for a writer-- about traveling is the dead time/thinking time.  Waiting in the airport, killing time in the hotel room (I mean, you can't drink grapefruit martinis all the time!), sitting on the airplane after I've finished the crossword puzzles I brought with me.  I even had an 80+ minute car drive that gave me more pondering time.  As I've mentioned, I'm trying to think through the whole story arc as fully as I can before I hunker down for the bulk of the writing.  Here's what I've figured out/learned about my writing process:

~I'm not good at waiting when the characters start talking to me.  So, I've written a prologue (just 2 pages, but still) that's already been vetted and approved by a talented and brilliant writer (Hi Amy!).  I'm still committed to working out the story arc, but when the words come bubbling up I can't just shove them back down.

~Narrative Voice/POV is all.  I spent much of my "thinking time" rolling options around and trying them out.  First person?  But that's going to be complicated since I want to show this story through three different characters.  So, I'm leaning towards 3rd person for all three.  Next to work out . . . do they each get their own chapters?  Or will I just vary it by scene?  I even toyed with the idea of having each one tell a third of the story--first Maggie, then Jim, then Grandma, but I knew I needed to have a rationalization for whatever device I chose.  And I've decided since they are all in it together, growing, changing, learning, I'm going to let them tell it as naturally as I can, which to me means the POV will shift within chapters.  Stay tuned.

~Each book chooses the way it's going to be written.  Yesterday, in the airport, I did something I've never ever done before.  Sitting at the gate, waiting, I opened up my laptop and wrote 4 pages of chapter one.  Yes I did.  I know writers who say they can write anywhere.  I've never been one of them.  I like my talismans:  crisp new legal pad, new package of Uni-Ball pens, good coffee, a quiet house.  In cold weather I sit in the living room by the fire.  In warm, I'm outside on my front porch.  I write the first draft in long-hand.  But yesterday, I was in the airport (Gate A-1), announcements blaring out, a couple behind me bickering, no ink pens or legal pads handy.  But, earlier that morning an opening scene had been playing over in my mind.  And I didn't want to just jot down notes.  I didn't want to wait.  I wanted, no needed, to capture it.  Right then.  So I typed.  My fingers flew.  And while I know it's not yet where it needs to be, I also know where I'm going.  

~Don't throw too much away in the first draft.  I'm a good censor.  A good editor.  I can always pare away a scene, lop off an unnecessary paragraph.  You need to lose 20,000 words?  I'm your girl.  But I think I've often done too much pruning in the first draft which makes more work in the later drafts.  So, yesterday, on my drive, I'd thought of two competing motivations my character has to explain one action.  I examined each one trying to decide which one to go with, which one to throw out.  But then, I decided to be madcap.  Yup, you heard me.  Write it with both.  Start the scene with one, by the end, the other motivation prevails.  And it was more complicated, but so's the moment.  It gives more depth.  It explains things.  It's more human.


The Writers' Group said...

I can attest to the worthiness of the prologue. Though a prologue can often leave me feeling ambivalent, this one set the stage for what will surely be a book filled with compelling characters. I loved it, Judy.


Anonymous said...

Hi Judy, Hope it wasn't a dreadful flight ... Back in the USSR, White Album I think? I'm a writer, querying, have been stopping by your blog occasionally, thought I'd say hi! Enjoy your posts, sounds like a great weekend.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Oh, Amy, thanks again. Your validation means more than you know.

Hey Joanne, glad you stopped by. And, yes (ding ding ding ding) you win the three points. Good luck with the query process; please stop in more and chat.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back! And I love hearing about the process...

I had to smile about taking out the computer and just clicking away on the keys--I can't write anything longhand, not even a note to my son's teacher. In fact, I sometimes wonder if my brain works at all when there isn't a computer in front of it.

Good luck, and keep us posted.

Lisa said...

Now that song will be in my head all day, but no complaints. It's a great song.

This is a great peek behind the curtains. The one thing I've noticed about business travel is that it is conducive to thinking about writing -- there's not much else to do in gate areas and sitting on the plane, waiting to take off, etc.

I also like your approach of including all ideas the first time through. I found on a previous WIP that because I was trying to write and edit at the same time, I was unknowingly cutting off possibilities as I went along.

Truly "winging it" with my current WIP has been a lot more fun.

Looking forward to continuing to follow this and thank you for sharing.

"Oh the Ukraine girls really knock me out, they leave the west behind. And Moscow girls..." Enough! :)

Larramie said...

It's true then, you can write long as you already know what to say. ;) Onward!

Patry Francis said...

Four pages in the airport! I consider that a great sign. This novel is going to write itself!!

Wonderful post, Judy. Made me want to sit up on my couch and get to work. I may not be ready to do it, but it made me want to try...

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Kristen--it's good to be home. We head out again on Friday, so I'm hoping my travel/writing success continues.

Lisa, All I can say is the winging it for your WIP seems to be working. You keep me clamoring for more.

Larramie--"Onward." I like that. Here's hoping.

Patry, How great to have you stop in. "Write itself?" We'll see. Here's wishing luck to both of us.