A few years ago, I remember reading that Ruta Sepetys did two years of research before she began writing her books. If she is the sort to keep a planning journal or story/idea wall, I like to imagine how pristinely organized it must all be. I don’t know her, so of course this is all speculation. But I can imagine these novel planning tools and they must be beautiful. Mini works of art.
I have actually attempted the plan-before-you-write method. For me, making story maps and sketching visuals in my journal are enjoyable planning activites. At the recommendation of my fellow WriteOwl, Stacey, I read some of Truby’s book and got excited to take my novel planning up a notch. It’s a great book!, but I confess I got as far as doing the activities in Chapter 1, before I began to feel anxious and had to put Truby down. The planning stage began to feel less creative to me and I wanted to “discover” my story as I wrote it.
So I did. With general plot prompts and a whole lot of sidebar notes to be dealt with later, I “discovery wrote” the heck out of my first draft. In doing so, I discovered a few things. One, that I have a lot of rewriting to do, because, two, as I wrote I realized new things about my characters and that began to change the course of the plot. I also learned that writing this way made me insanely happy and excited to work on my book.
There is a reason I like the “blank page” and the question “what is possible?” I live for the part of making something that is purely creative, exploratory, imaginative. But any form of art requires tweeking, editing and revision. That is where I am. The backdrop I’ve created, the first notes I’ve written need details, need depth.
In the aftermath of discovery writing, I can see the advantage of thoroughly planning one’s novel; I am sure I wouldn’t have as many notes to sort through. But I also believe we create in different ways. I need to be guided by whim at first so I can carve out the details later. For another writer, they may need the opposite. To each their own.
What say you? What method do you use to write a first draft?
I’ve been thinking about voice a lot lately, or at least the act of having a voice. Maybe it’s our current political climate or maybe it’s that I’m five scenes away from a first draft and I’m still not sure I’ve mastered my voice yet. Whatever it is, voice has got me rattled.
Since I’m not going to even pretend to be an expert on discovering literary voice, you’ll not find a five point plan for creating the voiciest voice you could write here. What I will offer are some solid examples where, in my humble opinion, the authors write with a voice that is honest, reeks of music and is totally engaging. Stick with me, We’re going directly to the source, folks.
My list began to get ridiculously long as I thought about all the books I believe have strong voice, so below I’m including only the books I’ve recently devoured:
The Bink and Gollie series
Last Stop on Market Street
The Piggie and Elephant Series
Life on Mars (love that this book is in first person)
The Red Pencil
Kids of Appetite
The Carnival at Bray
The First Time She Drowned
Perfect Little World
The Bone Clocks (Currently reading, but added because 40 pages in and the voice is excellent)
(Not consumed recently, but always and forever):
The Outsiders (Because duh)
The Cather in the Rye (Because double duh)
The Harry Potter Series (Because triple duh x 7)
Invisible Man (Because this book, for me, is the master “duh”)
My list is clearly not exhaustive, so please share the wealth. What books are you reading that have great voice?
If you read my last post, you know that I set some concrete goals to banish my spiral into a summertime slothfest. And for the most part it worked fantastically!
I was up almost every morning at 5:30, sometimes earlier. I can count on one hand the number of mornings I wasn’t. I kept my summer reading to designated times and used my post-its to set Continue reading
Summer is a tricky season for maintaining habits. I’m not sure if it the warm weather or the incurable desire to head to the beach (even though it’s nowhere near where I currently live), but all I want to do is hunker down with the pile of books on my nightstand and read. Kevin Wilson’s a Perfect Little World is calling my name.
I must resist. Continue reading