Once upon a time a twitter friend asked me to blog about my process. And I went… err… okay…
Because, seriously, I don’t really think much about process. I have these crazy ideas and I write them down. Sometimes they aren’t ready to be turned into full stories, sometimes they are part of other stories and sometimes they just torment me until I do something with them.
It goes something like this. I have an idea (a plot bunny) of something cool, interesting, exciting or a particular character, or even a voice in my head. (Yes, I know how that sounds). The first thing is, while cool, the idea has to be persistent. Really persistent. I have a brain like a sieve at the best of time, and tend to keep notebooks around to jot things down, but still, if I’m too sleepy, in the shower, or driving the car on a motorway (true story), unless the idea is a really powerful one, I will forget it. Sometimes in the moments it takes me to find pen and paper.
I do tend to work on the ideas stage on paper with a pen. And yes, I am very fussy about which paper and which pen. It’s the way I learned to tease out ideas, to work out puzzles and if I’m stuck, no matter how far through a book I might be, I turn back to pen and paper, for that tactile, slow experience of creating words. Ideas fill the notebook. I start following up on some of these ideas, which leads me into research.
Oh how I love my research. Because once you get into the research phase, other ideas start to crop up, like links in a chain. Connections in other stories, history, mythology. So many things that start to interconnect (especially when writing The Treachery of Beautiful Things), and from those connections the story starts to grow.
The other thing that is vital is character, and the voice of the character (s). This is something that for me just has to come. I can’t force their voices and until I have it in my head, the story isn’t going to work. Different point of view characters will have different voices so I can end up with a hero and no idea about his heroine. Or a heroine with a silent hero. Sometimes its the first thing to arrive. The other night I found a teenage girl in my head, giving out about her mother giving her a stupid name. I wrote a page of A4 before it paused. I’ve no idea what she’s doing, why, or where she is, but she is jotted down now, so hopefully her story will turn up soon. Then other characters will turn up. Quite often they want different things from the first voice, which is great, because that’s a conflict. And Conflict drives stories.
Jack’s voice in The Treachery of Beautiful Things was a difficult one to capture until I was well into the book. Jenny on the other hand… like my teenage future-heroine of the other night, Jenny was a voice, a character and a scene all in one flash. But I know what Jack wanted the moment he met Jenny–he wanted to get her to leave the Realm. There were other temptations, but honestly, all he could think of was getting her home to safety. The complete opposite of what Jenny wanted.
Perhaps the main thing I find about beginning stories is to just go with it, to tease out the ideas, to follow the voice, to make the connections where they appear and leave the others for a later date. It’s a very fluid time in my writing process, the time when anything is possible and the story is all potential, waiting to be unveiled.
I don’t write into the mist, as it were. I tend to know where I want to go eventually but not how I will get there. Once I know the voice, the character and maybe a few scenes I try to think about where the resolution lies. It is a journey, not just going walkabout, so it needs an ultimate destination. What would be the strangest place for this/these characters to end up? What would challenge and change them the most? What would be the most amazing showdown I can think of?
So there we go – the beginning of my writing process. Possibly slightly insane.
What about you guys? Do you have a preferred way of writing if you write? Do you notice things as you read? Do you follow research like a puzzle box? What are your favorite voices?