Friday, March 05, 2010

March Mini-NaNo Club, thoughts for Friday

Hi all! Well, Clementine has decided that 6 am is a nice time to wake up and play. It could be worse, certainly.
Here she is, in all her dawn glee, wrapped up in the bed sheet :-) Hopefully we'll get a nap later, but for now, this is just a brief check-in before I get to work on my w.i.p.!

First, for fun, a picture of a serious writer at work, and not just any writer, but the best-sellingest writer in history:
Take it from Agatha: have some dignity while you write! No slumping around in your pajamas, woman! (Just kidding. I'm wearing pink fuzzy slippers right now that match my hair. Most emphatically not wearing a tweed suit.)

Also for fun, this pulled from a slide show I did on, appropriately enough, finishing your novel.
Since we're all setting goals for next week, this is perfect! If you're wondering about the image, the explanation is this: I had the slide show all finished and ready to go (I thought), but luckily I proofed it one last time, because I discovered that this slide (sans image), actually read: Set small goats and meet them. Oops! So here's a small goat I would like to meet. If you're wondering, it's a Kashmir goat. I had not ever thought about where cashmere came from, but there it is: these goats spin it from their butts like spidersilk. Okay, not really, but it does come from these goats!

Also, yesterday the Comic-Con/Wondercon newsletter came in the mail, with a section on writer's advice. I bring you two different approaches. First, from the wildly imaginative China Mieville, very specific advice as to process:

"If you want to write a novel, don't try to stare at it head-on. It is Gorgon: If you meet its gaze it will turn you to stone. Countless wonderful books get not written -- a more intransigent state of affairs that not getting written, by far -- this way. Instead, I recommend writing a book behind your own back. Frontload as much organization as you can -- way more than you think necessary, certainly more than you want to -- plan the whole thing out in detail. Characters, setting, story, in deep detail, so you have an overall arc, an outline of at least a short paragraph for each chapter, what'll happen in it, who's going to do what in it, and where you need to be by the chapter's end. Estimate the book's overall length, very roughly. (In words. Stop thinking in pages, please: in the modern world of font-profusion, let alone the explosion of e-books, it is totally unhelpful to keep saying "I wrote 10 pages today." Ten pages in, what 8 pt. Courier? 17 pt. Centaur? I implore you to think in terms of numbers of words, not "pages.")

Take a good long time over this -- a few good weeks. Then, when it is done, forget it. Don't look at it. That way, when you've finished, you'll have a book-plan, which, paradoxically, will allow you to ignore the terrifying book-ness of the book. Because all you need to focus on is the chapter you're on, and you know what has to happen there, because you've planned it, and it's right in front of you. Forget about the rest of it, just focus on trying to write, say, 500 words (or whatever) on a writing day, and thinking just about the chapter you're in, and getting to the end of it. If you don't do that, everything you write you'll be thinking in terms of "Adding To The Novel," and that's way too intimidating, so there's every possibility you'll stall."

And then, from the other end of the planning spectrum, these words from comic book writer Geoff Johns (and recently named co-president or something or other of DC Comics):

"Stop thinking about writing and write."

Words of wisdom. I didn't know that China Mieville was such a planner, but it makes sense since his books are long and dense and chewy, with crazy world-building skills and lots of characters and man, Perdido Street Station had one of the ickiest wickedest monsters evah. His approach, above, is sort of what I'm up to this month -- I took a chunk of the book and made an outline and I'm taking it on piece by piece. I go in waves of working that way. Sometimes that is called for, and other times I need to "fly into the mist", that is, go forward not knowing, invite serendipity, close my eyes and see what magic appears, see what blossoms. But now I'm on a little planned spree, so we'll see how that goes. And yesterday I met my small "goat" which was section 1 off my new outline. Yay! I love making tick marks on a list. Section one, tick.

Happy wishes to all writers today :-)

(Peter S. Beagle's writing advice in that article, by the way, is very practical: "Invest in a comfortable pad for the chair in which you work." Ha ha. From someone currently sitting on a folded afghan on a hard bench, I can tell you it isn't bad advice! I also happen to be reading Peter S. Beagle's first novel right now, A Fine and Private Place, and I was marveling at it even before I learned the effer wrote it when he was 19!!!!! How-what-really-whuuu??? Seriously: so smart, so good.)


Amber Lough said...

Well, Mr. Beagle wrote some fine stuff.

My kids were up at 5, so I know what you're dealing with. Fortunately, I've figured out a system: one goes to preschool, and the other goes to the gym's daycare whilst I hide out in the lobby (instead of working out) to write. Worked just fine today! Then I come home and the baby naps, during which I do crafty things if I don't write. (And I'm going to be working with cashmere soon. Right now: merino and angora.)

Liana said...

Have you read "The Last Unicorn" ? I finally read it last year (I had, of course, already seen the movie more than once) and that book is...just...the writing is....fabulous, really, but I can't come up with a proper adjective! Anyway, I definitely want to read more of his books :)

jaecy bells said...

Wow. This is like, deep and meaningful to me because a) I am a writer, struggling greatly to revise my first novel and b) j'adore goats. With a passion. Unhealthy passion, possibly, but today it proved useful.

I think I really, truly do need to take chunks. It's like bites: I know this analogy gets used a lot, because it's a GOOD one: take small bites, chew them thoroughly, and in the end, you'll have a smooth, well-written book: not a messy, rushed-in-places, too dry here, too packed here, etc.

Thank you for re-sparking my "goats"!

Faith E. Hough said...

Very funny post...aren't goats just one of those intrinsically funny things?

persnickety_jen said...

I knew there was another reason I loved China Mieville... His characters are so intense and strange and wicked and amazing. I still get shivers when I think about Perdido Street Station.

Hilary Wagner said...

Clementine is so cute! No matter how tired I am or how early it is, when I see my daughter Nomi's 2 year old beaming face, I just melt!

xoxo -- hilary

Unknown said...

Clementine is so precious. She always looks like she is just beaming with joy in your pics. :) Love them! I have two beautiful little girls and, it's true, they are magic.

For the goat lovers out there:

(It's all rated G, no worries! It's pretty amazing, too!)

Almost done reading "Lips Touch"... Laini, it's stunning! Your hubby's illustrations are perfection going along with your stories. I wish I weren't almost done! :) Congratulations on this beautiful accomplishment.

Lindsey :)

Tinker said...

I like meeting small goats - they're much less likely to butt heads with you.
In case you hadn't noticed -Clementine is adorable. Just thought you should know that... ;)

ChristyG said...

Amber, I like the way you work. Good ideas!

Ah, Peter S. Beagle. What an incredible writer. His prose is so elegant. I haven't read 'A Fine and Private Place' - will have to pick it up. Am currently reading the new Nicholson Baker. His books always makes me feel like I'm discovering the English language again for the first time.

Many thanks for another inspiring post! I grew up on a goat farm - love those lil' buggers.

Patry Francis said...

What a wonderful and inspiring series of posts, Laini.
You are THE March gift.

Beverley BevenFlorez said...

I added a link to this post on my Writers' Well today (a weekly recap of the best kidslit writer blog posts). :)