Organic

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In my opinion, David took the blog to an entirely new level on Monday, in a fantastic post! It was as concise and clear and crisp piece of writing how-to as I have ever seen. It was dang near perfect.

I am not feeling concise or crisp this week. I recognized another structural flaw in my WIP, due Feb 1, and I am…not floundering, but feeling stymied as I look for a way to put it together so it works as I envisioned without having to start over. (sounds of screaming as I write that)  So I want to offer the best piece of writing advice I know, unstructured and organic. It’s as much to remind myself to follow my own advice as anything.

The year a writer sells his first novel is amazingly intense, stressful in both positive and negative ways, and has a nose-bleed-steep learning curve. The actual writing of the book? Starts to be remembered as being easy…

One aspect of that first year as “Unknown Writer With a Book Just Purchased by a NYC Pub,” has always stayed with me—the necessity to be able to answer the unexpected questions, to be quick on my mental feet. And one question that flummoxed me, and continues to do so, is this one: “So. How do you write a book?”

Say what? I have never been, ready for that one. The answer encompasses so much. And so little.

I tried sensitive, “You must want to be a writer? What do you write?”
Tried sincere, “It’s a loooot of work. This one took over a year from conception to final copyedited version.”
When I was too tired to think, I even tried flip, “It ain’t easy.”

I tried a lot of answers. But the real one is that everyone does it differently. David said it Monday—(paraphrasing) it’s an organic process that is different for every writer and for every book.

The changing world we live in affects our careers, hopes, and plans. Affects the way we research and how we write, how we deal with editors and agents, how we are paid, and how we stay vital in a marketplace that is still shrinking and evolving and beginning to encompass the electronic world. So. How do you write a book? I know, you really want the truly simple answer. So do I. Here it is.

BiC. Butt in Chair. Simple. And risky. Downright dangerous. You learn to write a book by writing one. By sitting down at PC, laptop, pad and pen, whatever, and putting words on paper that you hope will tell a story. By pushing through the difficult sections. By taking that chance every time you sit down to write, that you might not have it in you to write a book. By being willing to read what you wrote yesterday and recognize it as not being good enough for an agent today. Not yet. And then still BIC and write again.

It’s all been said before. It’s all been written before. But hey—we have to keep saying it so the young will have places to learn, right, grasshopper? And mostly, we have to keep saying it so we can remember it ourselves. I can offer a dozen ideas, tricks, and hints, and I will, starting in my post next week. But we have a whole new list of readers this year, and I wanted to start at what is, for me, the very beginning of how to write a book. BIC.

The organic process of writing is all about BIC. [Organic is a term I love and use and always reminds me of compost. And a lot of my writing is compost, needing warmth and heat and lots of digestive little beasties (yes, I mean rewrites, some of them massive) to make it actually work.]

BIC. Put my butt in a chair and start. Words on paper. I’d like to share the first words I put on paper in 2010, the opening of Mercy Blade, which was two thirds finished when I went back and rewrote the beginning on New Years Day.

 

I rolled over, taking most of the covers with me as I stretched. I felt like a big, satisfied cat, well fed, well loved, and nearly purring with contentment. Beside me, still snoring softly, was Rick LaFleur, my boyfriend— Crap. I had a boyfriend. I was still trying to get used to the idea. We’ve been together for over a month, and it’s all still new. Still scary. And part of me was still fighting having him around. It wasn’t that I resisted commitment. Really. Part of me just resisted sharing my territory. I mean, I already shared my body with another soul, and having another person around so much had seriously affected my lifestyle, stealing time from the other half of my dual nature. I hadn’t shifted into Beast in two weeks, and while she had nothing but good stuff to say about my sex life, she was pacing unhappily at not being allowed out to hunt.

I sat up on the side of the bed and retied my hip-length hair into a sloppy knot at the back of my head, tucking silver-tipped stakes into the makeshift bun. For a vamp-killer, it was an action similar to a cop carrying his weapon with him to potty. Overkill, paranoid, but once it had kept him alive, so it became habit. Stakes 24-7 had become my new habit.

 

It is lot better than the original opening. It has voice and pacing and suspense and a hardboiled mystery feel that I have been working on bringing to my fantasy work. Mostly, it is the result of BIC, and the willingness to toss out what didn’t work and put in some new stuff. Yes, it might change again during the rewrite stage. But I like where it is going, that organic flow to the words.

Next week, I want to talk about opening lines of a writer’s very first novel. We’ve talked about opening lines, here in the past, but with the shrinking market, I think it needs to be revisited. Okay, honestly, I need to revisit it for me, but I’m going to post it here…

Thanks, For listening,

Faith
FaithHunter.Net
GwenHunter.Com

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7 comments to Organic

  • Faith said, [Organic is a term I love and use and always reminds me of compost.]

    Me too! I was in a dance workshop once, and the teacher was trying to teach us some excruciatingly slow moves. “Reach down inside where you’re all warm and organic and gooshy,” she said. At the time, we giggled, but the more I thought about it, the more that made sense. All my art does indeed live down where it’s warm and organic and gooshy, whether I’m talking about dance or writing.

  • Yes, I think that if I’m ever asked that question I’ll have to answer with a short and long answer and tell them how I do it personally. The short answer being, I just do it. I sit down and I do it. But the process is different for everybody and you really have to find your own method, but the first part to that is to do it.

    Everyone approaches writing in so many different ways that you really have to find your own method, and BIC is really the first step. And the C doesn’t have to be your chair. A writer doesn’t have to take that to mean sitting in front of a computer screen in an office chair. It could just as easily be on their deck in the sun at the picnic table with a tall glass of iced tea, or a hard cider (Gods I miss that lately…winter’s been fun, but I’d like some warmth now please), laptop or even pad and pen in hand. Wherever you’re comfortable, but not too comfortable; a place that can help put you in the writing mood. I used to get those “How to write” books and they always made me irritable because very few of the methods ever really fit the way I wrote. And every one was different. Eventually I “got” that everyone is different and the way they are going to approach writing will be different. The books tell you how Joe Blow writes or how John Johnson writes, and it may have some useful ideas and tricks in them, but they can’t really teach you how you write. They should all just start with “Sit down and do it. The rest of this may or may not help.”

    The other thing you need is a place to start. At least a vague idea of start-middle-end. Sometimes a story will just come to me (most times), other times something has to inspire me; something someone says, a painting, an observance while I’m out and about. A bulldozer running over a flower could prompt some story about terraforming an alien world or a group of elves suddenly having enough and attacking a bulldozer crew in a rain forest. Then these snippets will evolve into something more and more complex as my mind fleshes them out, gives them substance, fills in the gaps.

    But for all those thoughts the first is always true. You have to sit down and do it. And it’s like as not usually a trainwreck the first time out. It really is. I have the first real piece I ever wrote and it’s terrible. However, like an irritated bee that’s trying to get into a house for whatever sweet stuff it scents in there, you just keep banging your head against the glass. Eventually that glass will no longer be in the way of what you want. With each work you get better and better.

    Now, I’m not a believer in taking creative writing classes for myself (I have no lack of creative ability), but they could help some people. I did go and take an Advanced English class at the local community college, mainly because I tested into it. I felt I needed that extra brush-up and refresh on my grammar and composition. I think that was a good move and I’d actually recommend doing that to anyone who’s planning on trying to write to publish.

    And yes, a good opening line goes a long way to gripping the reader immediately. I think one of my stronger suits is leading with a strong first paragraph, along with dialogue and characters.

    And now my child is calling and I’m rambling, so I better quit while I can.

    Faith, the book is cool so far. I’d ask where in the writing process that version of the book reaches you before it goes to press. I had to stop reading your snippet above, lest it possibly spoil anything. 😉

  • Misty, yes! I can see that, Painting too. But jewelry making is something else entirely, for me, not as organic, more primative. I think I use the same part of my brain in jewelry making as I do in debating, or when I’m angry. Which is very different from the part of me I use when writing.

    Daniel, I agree that a college level class can be the make or break part for a lot of writers. They just need a little push. I did. And it made all the difference in the world. And yes, again, I should have said *SPOILER!!!* Oh well…

  • As I’m in that first year, I can relate. When people ask me how to write a book, I just say, “You sit down and do it.” There’s no magic. Just will power and perseverance.

  • First, thanks for the kind words, Faith. I’m a little embarrassed, but flattered.

    “Organic” and “synergy” are my two favorite writing words right now. They’re related, describing a process that pulls together disparate emotions, techniques, story elements, and swirls them into something that becomes far more than the sum of its parts. But none of that stuff is worth a damn if you don’t sit down and do the work. BIC. Someone can offer advice, but if I don’t make myself write, the advice doesn’t help. I’m finding the same thing with photography right now. I’m not getting out enough to take pictures and my art has plateaued a bit. BIG — Butt in gear…. I have to do the work to make it happen. I have to get out and make myself see, compose, shoot. Writing is no different. Thanks for this post. I just finished a book and needed a kick in the pants to get moving on to the next one. This helped.

  • Great advice. BIC is sometimes difficult for me but I know I must do it.

  • Kristen, That’s it. Just do it. I think Nike trademarked that one…

    Congrats, David for finishing the Robin Hood book! I cannot wait!

    Tyhitia, It *is* difficult. I’ve been procrastinating all day, what with this problem I’m trying to work through in my WIP. I feel the answer is *right there* waiting for me to see it. I’m taking a pad and pen to bed tonight so I can write it down if it comes to me in sleep.

    Tyhitia also has a contest going at
    http://obfuscationofreality.blogspot.com/2010/01/faith-hunter-blood-cross-and-contest.html
    A signed copy of Blood Cross goes to the winner. How cool is that!