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,