Sunday, December 13, 2009

Something exciting has been happening the last couple months--I have learned a new way to write! And it's been working great! No one told me to try this; I didn't read it anywhere (that I can remember, anyway). I just kind of stumbled into it.

I wrote The Orange Slipknot straight through. When I got stuck, I stopped and thought until I figured out what would come next. I had lots of time on my hands in those days--chunks of several hours of unbroken quiet time, several times a week, to think and write. One of my frustrations with writing the sequel has been that my life is busier now, and it's hard to write in short chunks of quiet time here and there, or when my husband is home and the TV is on.

One evening I was sitting in the recliner with my laptop (where I usually write), staring at my synopsis, distracted by the TV. Because I couldn't write, I decided I'd just add a couple of thoughts to my synopsis. That wasn't so I added a little more. I kept staring absently at my screen, not really thinking about trying to write--half listening to the TV.

I noticed that one section of my synopsis was getting pretty detailed. It was about a conversation between Ben and his dad. It occurred to me that perhaps I could just edit that section a little and turn it into actual conversation. I added quotation marks, paragraphing, changed the wording a little, and suddenly, I had half a page of finished dialogue! Wow--I laughed out loud!

It didn't fit where I had left off in the story. It didn't even fit in that chapter--it was "future." But that was okay--it was a chunk of good writing that was ready and waiting for when the story arrived at that point. I wondered if I could do that again, somewhere else in my synopsis. I began playing with the synopsis, every time I sat down to write--adding ideas and details, then turning some little part of it into a few finished paragraphs.

One day I realized I had enough finished chunks to make a chapter! I just had to sketch in a few transitions, a chapter opening and ending, then a little editing to smooth it all out. I couldn't believe I had created a chapter like that--I had never done anything like that before. I had written it all backwards, but it worked! I didn't know yet how I would connect this to what I already had, but I could go back later and work on that. Meanwhile, I would work on little sections that "grabbed me."

I'm not an artist, but perhaps it is like painting a picture. You don't just start at the top and work your way down. You might start by sketching out some outlines and some ideas for colors. Maybe you work on one part, then a bit of another part, then maybe even get some details on one particular part. Then you might step back and look at it, making sure it's all going to balance out before you get too involved in one particular part. Here and there, you fill in, round out.

When I realized that I didn't have to write "in a straight line," a big burden lifted. Instead of staring unproductively at the place I was stuck, I could skip ahead and "play" with my synopsis. I am getting very excited about finishing this book!

I have written almost four chapters in the last two months using this method. I'm on the home stretch--the final fourth of the book--and I've had several new ideas that add to the plot. One came to me while watching the news. Another, when my husband happened to use the word "snudge," leading to an interesting conversation. One character that originally had a minor part in the story has developed more of a presence than I originally foresaw, adding a nice sub-plot and sub-theme. Several other possible ideas seem to be headed for the virtual trash can. I have one more tricky place to work on, then it's pretty well lined out.