Thursday, April 21, 2011

Don't Think, Write!

Thinking about writing a book? Well, stop thinking and start writing. Thinking is the single-biggest obstacle to writing a book.

I know this is true from experience. For years...make that decades...I thought about writing a book. During all those years of thinking I didn't get a single word on the page. Not one word.

In On Writing, Stephen King says writing a book is like an archeological dig. The story is there. The writer's job is to unearth it. Using plot to unearth the story is like bulldozing the dig--you'll get everything out, but the fine details will likely get destroyed in the process.

That was certainly the case with Glass Houses. Being a memoir, all I needed to do was write down what happened. Once I started writing it only took four months to finish. The story didn't really become visible to me until I was more than halfway through the book.

Frankly, writing a memoir is a lot harder than writing a novel. A memoir is based on a certain history. I spent a lot of time researching when things happened to make sure I got it right...or at least, close to right. I had to deal with a lot of problems too, like too many characters, being true to the characters without pissing anyone off, and masking the identity of certain individuals.

Last night I fell asleep trying to figure out how to advance the plot of my new book, Addicted. I knew where I wanted to go but couldn't figure out how to get there. The answer didn't come to me in my dreams, either.

During my "writing hour" today, I decided to divert from the plot with the introduction of a female best friend. Before the hour was up I'd written two more chapters that landed me exactly where I wanted to go. Even more amazing is that better than 85 percent of what I wrote today was dialogue.

Josh Freeman and Linda Delgado are entirely made up. Josh started out being loosely based on me, but now he's very much his own person. The idea for Linda came from my life as well but she, too, has become her own person. Like real people, there are things each character would and wouldn't say or do.

The first chapter I wrote today was about a phone call from Linda inviting Josh to join her at the swimming pool.The second chapter is about the conversation they had around the pool. Almost every single word in both chapters is dialogue.

Conversations go someplace. They have a purpose, even if it's just catching each other up on recent events. The characters, Josh and Linda in this case, drove the story in a particular direction which solved all the problems I'd created in my head thinking about how to advance the plot.

Writing Glass Houses was hard--a labor of love and sometimes painful remembering. I'm having a blast writing Addicted. There are no walls or boundaries, just Josh, Linda, and...

The Crotchety Old Man

1 comment:

jg said...

This is so exciting! So glad you're sharing the journey with your fans...
Kisses & Happy PEEP PEEP Easter.

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