Friday, July 17, 2009

The New Book Journey - Are We There Yet?

I've completed the 150% magnification proofing of Strachan, and she's looking good. I'll put it aside for now, before running off the hard copy. My writing buddy, Melissa, suggested a couple of valid points, and they're now reflected in this final draft, and I am still thinking of just one or two tiny pertinent things that I'd like to say, but that's normal. I don't think I've been so excited about a book before. It's strange, because Hafan Deg was a huge investment for me, and took ages to complete and forever to revise. Strachan's Attic was the 'easier' book - if writing is ever easy - and yet satisfies me more. Perhaps it's still a case of loving the one you're with.

Of the couple of new story ideas floating around, I am nervous at this stage. Melissa said the time wasn't right to start hers yet, even though her story was firmly in place. I echo that, in that I could sit down now and begin, but something is telling me to wait a bit. Once that urge is allowed free reign into our days (and our nights, damn it!) we'll be once more at its mercy. So we tend to hold off just a little longer, to grab some time for ourselves, to recuperate, to refresh, to rest (as Sally suggested), before jumping into the deep end.

But one of those ideas? Oh, wow, it's strong! I want to tell you about it now, but I can't. The important thing is the where. England, Canada, Australia? Each presents its own amazing backdrop for the kind of story I have in mind. Switching genres? Maybe. Upset my agent? Undoubtedly. But what writer truly wants to be predictable? Many well known writers deliberately use different names for their different genres - and not because it might otherwise upset their agents - but because they care about their readers' expectations. As a Newbie (possibly even a never-will-be) I have the luxury of deciding what I want to write, like building that baseball diamond in the cornfield: with luck, they will come.

I have another manuscript at around the 25% stage, started some time ago, for which I lost my fervor; one of Life's Challenges interrupted the original first draft, and I just didn't get back to it. I re-read it yesterday, and it's good. I'm thinking of incorporating the plot into my new book, intertwined through the main story, but I'll be careful before rushing into it. It could sound weird, but my characters are still getting to know each other. I'm going to leave them in peace.

Meanwhile I try to stay busy doing other things. I'm not much good at shopping, but did a little of that yesterday. I caught up with my upstairs neighbor as well, who sometimes phones me to see if I'm still alive. I didn't do the Wine-by-the-Bay thing, but will wait, I think. I have a feeling that the overwhelming need to get this story going will present itself at this restaurant, because of its beautiful setting.

In my personal life, I am a huge planner, and can - more or less - tell you what I expect to be doing in five years. I believe in cash flow spreadsheets, long-term monetary forecasts, lists for just about anything you can think of, and I'm ridiculed by my kids, who think my need to start researching stuff years before I intend to take action on them is just plain obsessive.

I mention this because I don't do this with my writing. I plan nothing except my ending. I come up with the basic idea, mentally mull it around for a while, and then just go for it. All research is done as I work. Over the previous period, prior to the actual writing, I probably have made some notes, snippets of dialogue I want to use, but nothing else. If I decided my hero would be a biologist, and then couldn't find enough fascinating information on that, I'd just switch his profession. That's the wonder of writing. Like children, we get to make it up as we go along.

My question of the day? Are you heavily into research before you start, like Melissa, and, if so, is your life equally planned out in advance (in as much as any life can be)? I have a strong feeling that one practice voids the other. Just curious.

Have a great weekend. I think we are having a spot of summer up here tomorrow, although I'm not sure about Sunday.


Casey McCormick said...

Congrats on finishing Strachan's Attic, Fran!

I don't research heavily before I start a book. I wouldn't say my life is very well planned either, but more so than my books!

Fran said...

And it's nice to see you here again, Casey.

Melissa Marsh said...

I research before writing, but I don't plan out my life, really. Right now, there is so much that is up in the air. Will I have a new relationship some day? And if so, will it necessitate that I move somewhere else? So many unknowns.

I have a few goals for the future, but nothing necessarily "planned" out. :-)

Fran said...

Hmm, perhaps my theory is right.

Johanna said...

I definitely do a fair amount of research prior to starting a new work. I read a few fiction books about the topic and then internet search and usually about 3 or 4 informational books as well. Then I just write what feels right.

I actually wrote a novel set in Oklahoma and had someone critique it saying: "you obviously wrote about a place you know well..." LOL...I only wrote about a place I RESEARCHED well!

Johanna said...

Oh...and I tend to be fairly regimented in life too...but that could just be having three little kids!

Fran said...

Johanna, I do just as much research, but DURING the writing. And raising three kids alone made me a longterm planner, although I am still very spontaneous on a day-to-day basis. It's so interesting but unsurprising that we all have our own way of dealing with life.

Jason M. Rubin said...

In my personal life, I plan nothing; even when I should. It's one of my faults. As a writer, I generally take the same approach. I get an idea for a story and I just launch into it. Along the way, its shape and direction begins to suggest itself. My current work in progress began as creative nonfiction and now is definitely a novel, told in first-person. On the other hand, the novel I am sending queries to agents for, is based on a 17th-century English folk song so I did do some preliminary research into the song itself, the times, and the geography. One thing I'm not is dogmatic. Whatever works.

Embee said...

I don't research beforehand...when I run up against a problem or question as I'm writing, that's when I set out to do the research. If I hit a roadblock in the midst of the plot, I have to go back and make fixes, but that's okay. That's why it's called a work in progress.

I don't plan my life either, for the most part. A general outline of where I'd like to go, but whether or not I get there or somewhere else, who knows! I take it as it comes.