Saturday, October 31, 2009

Writing Survival List

This is my entry in the November Blog Chain for Absolute Write Water Cooler. In this case the subject matter will be a Writing Survival List, i.e. what I need as a writer. For me, this will focus on what I need to write fiction (as opposed to, for example, this blog).

Oh, do I write fiction, you ask? Well, yes. Plays, screenplays, fanfiction, and now I've got two full-length novels in the works -- one a reworking of the 1840s "penny dreadful" Varney The Vampyre. But details on that for a later time...

Writing, for me has four parts (and each of those innumerable other parts but this is a blog post not a book-length exploration of writing). Each has their own needs.

First is Inspiration, which can take hundred different forms. I may contemplate an actor or actress who always plays a certain role and imagine them in a vastly different one. Or I may read or see a story with a perfectly good premise, IMHO botched during execution. More likely, some little detail with attach itself to the stuff that has fascinated me for years and years. Either way, to get that inspiration what I need most is plenty of exposure to the world--to history, to news, to a variety of people, to different places as well as a lot of fiction itself, of whatever media.

What follows, once a trail is found, is the exploration of said trail. I call this (with a singular lack of imagination) Research. It can easily take up years. Truth to tell, often what interests me most are things at which I don't have that much first-hand experience. Well, have you lived in Regency England? Or know that much about about lighthouses? All that is part of understanding the "floor" upon which I'm getting ready to dance. It is an uneven thing, that floor, and dancing there without knowing it very well risks a broken ankle. Or neck. Some might disagree but to me research includes fashioning background details that exist only for the sake of the story. There isn't really any large island off the coast of San Francisco named Cuervo Vista, but that doesn't mean I don't need to know that island very well. Interestingly (at least to moi) much of the plot gets worked out in this phase, arising from details discovered or invented (although they all feel discovered, to be honest).

Third (in process but not necessarily chronologically) is Percolation. I also call this Simmering. Which reveals my penchant for cooking. What has been learned needs time to jell, to brew into something the conscious mind wouldn't do on its own. Connections fuse together never considered before. Points of view shift. Some preconceptions evaporate while new imperatives make themselves felt and heard and seen. Since, alas, a relatively small portion of my life is spent actually writing, this is my way of using the rest of that time productively (in ways other than earning money to pay rent, washing clothes, etc.).

Fourth is Composition, no less complex (i.e. ofttimes weird) than the other three. Putting the words together into sentences, paragraphs, descriptions, outlines, conversations, chapters, and the like. Physically, this does require a writing medium (the word processor is the one I'm used to--in another age the quill would have done) as well as time with a minimum of distractions. Sometimes music helps set the mood, or words of art in and around my workspace. Caffeine in the form of chocolate and coffee blended together with plenty of dairy.

Such is what I need. These are my keys to survival as a writer, in other words to write. I look forward to reading what others in the chain have to say...

1. DavidZahir -
2. shethinkstoomuch -
3. Lost Wanderer -
4. aimeelaine -
5. Ravencorinncarluk -
6. Bsolah -
7. Charlotte49ers -
8. Angyl78 -
9. truelyana -
10. Claire Crossdale -


The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

There is a clear discipline to your approach, which I envy since I myself often proceed based on mood, well that or vigorous contentious brainstorming with Simone. Great post.
You take care,

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree that good writing does need percolation, or I like to think of it as the work needs time so all the flavors 'marry', like a good spaghetti sauce over a few days in the fridge.

Good luck with your writing, and thanks for posting!

Ana said...

That's a truthful mix of a writing list. :)

Lost Wanderer said...

This is a great list, and quite a wonderful process. I don't think I can define my own process quite that well. Maybe one day I will figure it out.

Raven Corinn Carluk said...

I'm digging percolation. Love the entire post, but that is really sticking with me.

Aimee Laine said...

To me, the steps you've outlined imply you place great thought into your work. Kudos to you! :)

Anonymous said...

Percolation- I have to say I like that word. I would never have applied it to writing tho ugh. I find that I also have to sit on ideas and grab snippets from life here and there to add to it. Great post!