Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Idea of a Novel

Over at the Romance Studio's Halloween Party Spookapalooza where I'm spending the days leading up to Halloween, one author left a question.

How do you find your ideas and what does it take to develop it into a story?

I had my finger hovering over comment and then I realized that this was a much more complex question than I thought.  The first thing I realized was that the idea portion of things was easy.  That was something that came to me by stumbling on an obscure news article to an incident in life, a comment from a friend, a dream or even a walk in a graveyard, a great view, from any number of places.  Often my ideas come from my travels and evolve from a setting.  But the idea is only a small kernel.  There are no characters, no plot, no black moment, no nothing, just that one idea what would happen if...

The Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan Oct. 2010
If the setting didn't generate the idea than the next step - setting.  After that I  create and connect with the characters.  Taking a walk or two or three and some fresh air prods the characters to make that first tentative appearance.  Not all of them, of course but the primaries have to be there before I can even start.  After all it's their story.  When they appear that's when I'm anxious to get at that blank screen.

But not before the title.  That's the easiest part and of course it's subject to change at the end and sometimes a number of times. 

The Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan Cemetery
The process of writing the novel has changed for me with each book.  I used to just sit down and write, okay I still do - but now it's through chapter one only and just to get the feel of where I'm going.  Then I write a short synopsis that is subject to change and these days I create a chapter by chapter outline.  Very sketchy I have to admit and not followed to the letter for I'm still a pantser at heart.  But it's something to keep my creative spirit in line so that rewrites are somewhat curtailed.  So now I have a plot - a rough blob with a trajectory, a black moment and a happy ever after with a bad guy or two thrown in for good measure.

Then I write - and I stop and pause as one character disappears and I realize I've lost their voice.  So I have to listen - if I keep writing I force them to be who they shouldn't be.  It's up to the character to direct their version of the story and that comes from somewhere deep in my subconscious.  I know all that sounds somewhat airy-fairy but that's the way it is.  The writing isn't always a straight line and as I now write romantic suspense, I have to go back and connect the dots as the secondaries create havoc with the hero and heroine.

It's an evolutionary process.  Writing is as much a craft as an art so there are mechanics that must be learned.  Grammar, character arcs, techniques of all kinds become the tools in the writer's toolbox.  The more tools the better equipped the author to write a good book.  That aside, the tools are just that tools, alone they can't create a living, breathing story.  There has to be joy and passion in the words.  Maybe that's the crux of the whole thing - love writing every moment of that book no matter what your process and do it every day, and in the end you'll have a novel.

And that's it - what it takes for me to write a novel. 

So short answer; an idea, knowledge of the craft, discipline, imagination and a love of words = novel.

Now I'm off to walk and get some more ideas.  You?

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