Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Finding One's Way

I'm not the sort of writer who sits down at the desk/table with the germ of an idea and just wings her way through to the end. Not a "flier into the mist." I have to have a roadmap, I do.

But then, neither can I plot out exactly what scene goes into what chapter, or work out the back story of everyone in the town where my story takes place. I tend to figure out only as much as I have to know to get the job done--and much of the time I don't figure it out until I reach the point where I need it.

In other words, I have to work out the Big Picture before I can really get started with writing, but the Details come later. For instance, when I started writing The Eternal Rose, I knew that the Daryathi were taking Adarans (My heroine is Adaran) as slaves. But I didn't have a clue as to why. Not until the family paid a visit to Obed's cousin. Then it all came clear.

The story I'm currently working on--a romantic science fiction--or maybe a science-fiction romance--is going really slow because I keep having to stop and figure out all the details.
I did work on my world-building before I got started, but even if you know a lot of the whys and wherefores and most of the whats, the little things can still stump you. And sometimes, once you know all that stuff, you still have to figure out the HOW. My hero, a court-savvy, cynical, empire's-capital tough-guy, has to go to the frontier, where he's never been, to investigate troubles in the family business. And I keep thinking of ways he could do it better, and going back to fix it.

Lots of writers say that one should just keep driving for the finish, forget about editing and going back to fix--and for the most part, I do that. I certainly don't go back to polish. And I stick--mostly--to my outline. And I rarely go back more than a few paragraphs. A page at most. But if I decide my hero ought to go to the outer sectors disguised as a dandified bureaucrat with dyed-pink hair instead of wearing a scruffy spaceport tough, that's something I need to fix right away, or it will throw me off my stride. I'd rather fix it as I go than write multiple drafts. I hate multiple drafts. (I say that now, anyway. Watch. I'll probably have to write six drafts of this one poor story...I think I've written as many as two for one story, ever. I frequently have to go back and strip out a subplot, or explain things in my main plot, which means I go over the story a number of times, but they're not really new drafts...)

Anyway, I keep thinking this story is really giving me trouble--except I'm a page over my usual goals two days this week. Not bad...


CaroleMcDonnell said...

Woman, you just inspired me. It's great to know someone who has written so many novels still has moments of muddling through and correcting and repairing and revising.

Thanks. -C

Chris Howard said...

I'm with Carole! Great post, Gail. I was going to comment back, but it got out of hand and turned into an entire post about drawing and writing. Just put it up.