What else floats?*

I believe in less enlightened times we writers probably would all have been in trouble. You know what happened to women who heard voices in their heads and went around muttering to themselves.

So, how I write. First, I have a day job, and I find it concentrates the mind wonderfully. By the time I get home, refreshed from napping and/or reading on the metro, I am of course ready to sink into a slothful heap in front of the tv. But no. I must cook dinner and write. Dinner is optional. On a good night I’ll write ten pages. On a normal night I’ll do five. Or thereabouts. On the weekends I’ll do a lot more unless I actually have to do anything.

My secret? Many nice cups of tea. Solitude. I write at one end of the living room and I made a folding screen specifically to block out my nearest and dearest. I play music. It doesn’t stop anyone from reading aloud from the newspaper, asking me if I’ve bought groceries yet, or complaining about the state of the house, but it helps.

So how do I actually do it. Hmm. I don’t know. I’m afraid that if I analyze too much I’ll lose it. I don’t always enjoy writing, except for those euphoric moments when everything just flows and you realize hours have passed. Those moments of creativity are rather rare, I find, if you’re thinking of page counts and deadlines.

I usually start with an opening scene and go from there. Quite often it’s a journey or an arrival (oops. I didn’t realize I’d get extra points for originality). This opening scene is something I can see quite clearly in my mind. I’m usually fairly clear on where my characters will go initially and where they will end up and I work out the details as I go. I keep in my mind, or jot down somewhere, pivotal moments, and I’m usually aware of those well in advance. Those moments can be scenes, sentences, or an odd snippet of conversation, but they’re the bones of the plot.

I know we’re always talking about tortured heroes etc and they bore me to death, but I do think it’s important to write characters who have some pain in their past and show how they’re coping with it now. I’m not always sure of what that pain will be until I’m well into the book and start getting distracted by their backstory (and I love backstory and flashbacks. Bring them on). I also occasionally use a character questionnaire–one Diane Chamberlain hands out at her character-creation workshop is excellent–it’s short and it works for historical characters. I base my plots very loosely on the steps of the Hero’s Journey–that is, at some point I attempt to analyze what I’ve done as a reality check. I find Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict very hard to handle although I know some people swear by it.

And that’s about it.

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6 Responses to What else floats?*

  1. Lois says:

    Ooh, pretty site! ๐Ÿ™‚ I was thinking back yesterday after getting off the blog to the two classes I took that I didn’t have to write papers, and that was Creative Writing. They were both college courses, but part one I did take back in junior year in high school. That one we did play writing. I don’t remember planning anything. Just sat at those really old computers and typed. But we did have lots of cookies when we watched various movies of various plays and stories that we read. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    The second class, took much later when I actually was in college and the funny thing is, that the main project was whatever we wanted to do (short story for me) but I can’t remember much of the class, other than poems. LOL Pretty sure we had to get some books that we read and other stuff we were given to read there and we did our things from there. But anyway, our main writing assignment, I never actually finished it and that was fine — I don’t remember plotting it. I had trouble trying to think of what to write, and when the idea came to me (like lightning!), I had the basic idea, started writing and then at some point I just went to write the end because I could see that so clearly and I couldn’t write fast enough to get it on paper. BUt I guess it’s easier when it’s shorter. LOL I’d like to think if it was longer, there would have been notes along the way. . . ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. I admire all of you who have lives outside of writing and who still devote the time to getting the books done.

    Janet, how ever you do it, keep doing it!


  3. Elena Greene says:

    The interaction between a “regular job” and the writing is interesting. I used to do both. It seemed that I never had enough time to write but when I did, it was a pleasure and an escape (most of the time).

    More recently I gave up the “regular job” because it was becoming too stressful to work 2 jobs and be the sort of mother I wanted to be. Since then there has been more pressure on the writing. I have more time, but it has been harder to enjoy the process because I feel guilty if things aren’t going well. I’m just starting to get better about that.

  4. Todd says:

    “So, if she weighs the same as a duck…then she’s made of wood…”

    “And therefore…?”



  5. Judy T says:

    It is such an inspiration to me to see how all of you manage to devote yourselves to your craft.

    It begs to be asked, “How do you know she’s a witch?”

  6. Anonymous says:

    After a full day’s work and cooking, you still have the energy to write ten pages ~3000 words. WOW, Janet. You must be rather disciplined to be able to stay on your side of the screen and write. Thanks for sharing your process.

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