A brief glance backwards . . .

5 Jun

Three years and 6 weeks ago, I began this blog with a piece titled ‘So You Want To Write a Book?

And here I am again with the same topic.  First, however, an apology for missing a couple of weeks. I was in Colorado, visiting my son and daughter-in-law!  The scenery was fabulous, and so were they! I’d been slightly mis-led – there was NO wi-fi on my train. No lots of other things, as well, but those failures will be detailed in a long letter to AMTRAK. Believe me, it’s no way to run a railroad!

Still – new people come along all the time wanting to write a book, so since I’ve been handing out this kind of advice to several people lately, it seemed reasonable to do another blog piece on the topic. Primarily, this piece will be for fiction, and possibly creative non-fiction, although definitely more of the former.

Generally, writers of fiction are divided into two camps: those who plan out every detail and know where they’re going before they ever put the first word into the computer (or on the notebook paper, if you’re the more conservative type.) The other kind are the ‘flying-by-the-seat-of-the-pants’ variety. They have an idea, and are confident that once they sit down and start actively thinking about it, the idea will suddenly sprout wings of its own and take off!

Amazingly enough, this really can happen. The book begins to bubble and the characters come alive to such a degree that they actually take over the book! They tell their story the way they want it told, not in whatever fashion the poor writer had in mind at the beginning. Trust me on this. It’s happened to me too many times! Sometimes I’ve been able to rein them in a bit, and sometimes not. However, I think the book is ALWAYS better when I give them the freedom they demand.

On occasion, I have helped (and sometimes hindered, I have to admit) these characters by creating a bio sheet for them. My favorite way to do this is to pretend they’re applying to an on-line dating site. All those strange and off-the-wall questions! But, the answers do sometimes provide a spark – and we can hardly ask for more than that. It only takes one little spark to start a mighty conflagration!

Perhaps your notion begins with just one or two characters in a specific situation and how they get themselves in or out of it. However, a story with only two people is really hard to do, and probably best left in the capable hands of a very experienced writer. So – for your own well-being, you might want to identify half-a-dozen other characters whom you think might wander through those pages. Give them a name and a bio, too. (see above paragraph.)

Presumably, you’ll know what your characters look like. And be sure to use description for all locations and clothing worn by them. I’m forever reminding people to include all the senses: smell, touch, sight, sound and taste. Another important quality is emotion. Don’t be afraid to lay it on thick – it can always be pared back in the editing process.

The very most important thing for you to know and have firmly implanted in your mind before you ever start with this project is – what kind of book are you writing? What genre – and you may well benefit from the genre mash-up created and fostered by the e-book revolution. You can indeed mix two or three or more together to come up with something unusual. That alone will not guarantee success, but then, one of my favorite mottos is: Just because it’s never been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

It may be that your baby is so weird you won’t be able to find anyone to read—or review—it. But that’s the luck of the game, and you can only give it your best shot!

Happy writing! 

Isn’t this gorgeous? It’s between Durango and Silverton, Colorado, from Mother’s Day, 2013.



4 Responses to “A brief glance backwards . . .”

    • Site Admin June 5, 2013 at 12:36 am #

      Yes, yes. They say that some trains do have wi-fi, as well as some stations. Mine didn’t. And 5-minute smoker stops every 4-6 hours (I’m NOT a smoker) aren’t much help, either.

  1. Trudy Brandenburg June 5, 2013 at 2:30 am #

    V. nice.   Good night.   


  2. Thor Duffin June 5, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    I’ve tried another approach as well. Starting with 11 x 18 paper, I write the main characters name in the middle. I then proceed to surround him/her with people, jobs, friends, enemies, etc. – drawing lines to where they connect to the character, but also creating lines where the new entities interact with each other.

    For example, the best friend may also work at the same place. Or the beautiful girl may be the bosses daughter. Etc. This process tends to pull connections and stories from the paper in front of me.

    Anyway – just another thought in the mix of a million ways to create. Of course, there’s always the old “bottle of wine by the lake” method… although after a while your notes become harder to read.

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