Friday, November 05, 2010

Just ... start writing? *Gasp sputter!*

So, you know how awesome it is to write a book? To finish a book? If you don't yet know this, I can tell you: it is the awesomest. I just want to keep reading it over and over and gloating. I wrote another book. Yay, me!!!

But. There's a downside. The downside of finishing a book is that you have to -- ulp! -- start writing another book. Just like that. Out of thin air! Don't get me wrong: this is its own awesome, but the beginning, the huge blankness, it's ... well, you probably know. It's the most magical and terrifying of things. The perfect gleam of possibility, like a newly snowed field as yet unmarked by tracks. Daunting!

I've written four novels now. FOUR! (If you don't count the god-awful misbegotten thing I clawed out of my brain one fateful NaNo several years ago and have been trying ever since to forget). And it some ways, it DOES get easier each time. In the sense that you know you can do it. And this last book, it was a revelation and education to me in efficiency. The first book I've written as a mom. Written in time available. Okay, I'm lucky there -- I have work hours; I have 4-5 hours a day to just write. Once upon a time, that seemed like nothing. Now, I know it is enough. If I use it to write, that is, and not blog. (Ahem.)

So, here I go, starting another book. I've got a brand new Scrivener project doc going, complete with a "Working Doc" in which I have begun to spill my brainstorming thoughts and plans for this book. I had thought I would give myself some time -- weeks, even -- to just do that: What if this? What if that? Just brainstorm, write about the book, because it's easier than actually diving in and writing scenes, and it's a good way to ease in. But after a few hours of brainstorming, and with a solid idea of how I want to start the book, I'm thinking I ought to just ... start the book.

You know?

Planning is great. Brainstorming is great. I love it because it is this huge world to wander in. I can think up anything, and it is a zero-stress environment. It is an environment I return to again and again and again throughout the writing of a book. What now? and once again, What now?

But ... it's in the writing that the magic happens. That's the time of pure creation. It's kind of like the Miller-Urey experiment in which you create the conditions for life and then zap it with simulated lightning and see what happens. The joy and excitement and terror are here, in the primal soup of story. If I have an idea of how to begin, I should just do it right? The only reason not to is: FEAR.

Stupid fear. Fear is not a good enough reason!

As far as just diving in and starting to write, I have found that it helps to think of this phase as the creation of raw material, and not as "the book." In the last book, I did this a fair amount, early on, and I found that later -- even much later -- in the writing, I was able to plunder that raw material and use it. It was not for nothing! The thing is, writing about the story (which I totally condone, in its place), you are on the outside looking in. Writing the story, you are in it. And only when you are in it, do "things happen" -- mystical unexpected things, like flashes of lightning animating chemicals to produce amino acids out of slush. Get into a scene and go, make the characters talk to each other and do things. It might be something you can use, it might not. If it's not, just keep going: create more raw material, until you "find" it.

Remember: you're writing to find the story just as much as you are writing to tell the story.

I'm pep-talking myself right now to begin doing just this. There's this part of me that still thinks that writing a book is something you have to build up to, a monumental task you have to gird yourself for. But really, you can just do it. Start it. It's like dieting: you tell yourself you're starting next week because you have to "get ready," right? OR, you can just ... not eat that scone and start NOW.

So, am I going to do it? Start the book? No. I can't think of it like that! My brain, my brain. The convolutions of my brain will not allow it. What I am going to do is: start writing scenes, generating raw material. If I think of it like that, I can do it. I think.

Plus, this is a sequel, so the characters are right there in my brain, where they have been all year. (This is the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which by the way will be out in October, and may yet change title; stay tuned. It's in copy editing right now; I will see it again soon.)

By the way, the past few days have been an autumn extravaganza around here. So so wonderful. The leaves are doing their magical thing, and the weather has been gorgeous. At the park the other day, a genius mom had brought a rake and she made some massive leaf piles on the tennis court, and this might as well have been an amusement park for all the kids -- the glee, the games that came out a few leaf piles! Heaven.

Yesterday, we seized the possibility of one of the last sunny days and drove out to the Columbia River Gorge for our favorite hike: along Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls. Clementine was on my back, and snoozed a good part of the way, preparation for upcoming travels to faraway lands :-) Thank you, world, for the conjunction of sunshine with the changing leaves. These few days have been splendid!


tone almhjell said...

Oh... but I wanted that scone ;)

I think you've got a solid strategy here. Just be careful not to tell your brain it's a strategy, it might start frowning...

(Stay tuned in? We're perching at the edge of our seats, here!)

Alas, the days of leafy piles are gone here. Dregs, slush, remnants.

Jon said...

Laini, have I told you how wonderful you are (note: yes, I know she has a very muscular -- very nice husband)?

What a great post and something I needed to hear. I don't care how many novels you've written, a blank page is intimidating . . . and you can say "I'll start tomorrow" a million times, but you won't. Yes, dieting is the PERFECT example. Well, I finally lost 50 pounds in 2010. I finished two books. I have two more due in a few weeks. And I have a pitch due as well.

But you know what . . . it's easy. 4-5 hours/day is enough if you focus. That could be 4000-5000 words if you let them flow and don't try to find the perfect sentence. Yes, writing is discovery. You can plot and plan, but things change and that's all the fun.

Laini, you've invigorated and encouraged me today. Thank you!

Jennifer Morian Frye said...

Thanks, I needed that! I know you were pep-talking yourself, but it worked for me too! : ) Gotta get crackin'! One day, I will be able to say I've finished my 4th book....but for now, I had better get back to working on the first!

Amber said...

I really, really hope you someday write a How To Write book. Every time you share about it, I find myself helped. And I think about it later, or come back again.

But noooo!!! I love Daughter of Smoke and Bones! Why?


Lisa Schroeder said...

When I sit down to write, I am not writing a book. I am writing a scene. One scene. That's it. It's the only way I can do it. Because to write an entire novel? Impossible!!

Yes, SO glorious!! The Columbia River Gorge is an area we haven't explored much. (I know, how is this possible? We both up south of here, so we always seem to go back to those places that are familiar to us). Now I want to check out that hike you guys love to do. Will probably have to wait until next spring now though.

storyqueen said...

I was thinking about this just the other attempt to avoid revisions, I think.

Oh well, a big fat editorial letter came today, so guess I'll be putting off beginnings for a while.

Love the picture!


Anonymous said...

Wait-what? Hello? I've been waiting for *ahem* dreamdark, but I admit, Lips Touch was a good distraction from my longing, and I have no qualms that Daughter of Smoke and Bone will be one too.
But please please please please PLEASE do another dream dark book. Anxious fans awaiting-hello? Ding dong?
Where is Magpie and Talon and Hirik and Whisper? (BTW, I am in love with Talon.)
WEll, just keep writing. It is an author's dream to publish books, and it is a reader's dream to read them.

Riley said...

I love the "raw material" idea. It makes sitting down at the computer and just writing a much less daunting possibility.


Kate said...

Laini Taylor, I love your blog. I'm a big book-lover and mom of a 2-year-old and 4-year-old. I have dreams of writing someday, and you make it seem possible! Keep up the great work!

Kate said...


I know I speak for thousands of us out here in blogland who would love to here you are working on the sequel to Silksinger. Can you give us a nibble of hope that it will happen sometime soon.

Kate (who is businly doing nano again...)

Mae said...


The most helpful (hopefully) thing to do!

Especially for us kids. I have virtually met a bunch of fellow Trekkies on NaNo. And gotten into a HUGE argument about girls being just as good as guys (ahem-they so are-ahem ahem).

Starting books is so EASY for me. I mean, I have millions started... Very few finished.

I will tell you the euphoria of finishing a publisher when I have.

And start the sequel. IMMEDIATELY.

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