Saturday, August 6, 2016

How to Talk About a New Novel

I started a new novel on Monday, 1 August. It’s the second Lillian Saxton thriller. I plan on publishing the first one, Ulterior Objectives, later this fall. This new one is schedule for spring of 2017.

During my trip to Big Bend, I worked on the plot of this new book. For me, plot starts at the scene level. How does the story start? That’s how I began Wading into War and how I’ve begun many, but not all, of my books and stories. From this starting point, I build. End of Scene 1 is Whatever, which leads to Scene 2. The ending of Scene 2 has its own Whatever and that blends into Scene 3. And so on. In this way, I start constructing the skeleton of a story.

The benefit of this approach for me is that I give myself plenty of space to expand the narrative flow. I also allow room for the characters to breath. Sure, I need them to get from A to B, but how they get there I leave to the writing time. You see, I may have an idea: “Lillian Saxton and her partner, Henry Clark, must meet Important French Dude (later named Jacques) and they are delivered intelligence on German Luftwaffe positions.” That action is what I need to happen. But I don’t always know how it will happen. I trust my inner subconscious writer that, when the time comes, I’ll figure it out.

This is especially true for scenes that come down the line. As much as I’d love to start crafting prose with a clear and direct roadmap, it rarely happens. I know how the story starts, how I’m pretty sure it’ll end, and the major beats along the way. All the middle stuff, however, is, at this time, murky. I’ve a good idea how it’ll all turn out, but no clear path. That is both the exiting and scary part of writing.

But an interesting thing occurred to me on Wednesday. I realized that there was a better beginning to the novel. So, even though I had written the first scene, it is now chapter 2. Funny thing, that.

The biggest downside to these early days of a project with upwards of forty scenes mapped out is that when someone asks “What’s the new book about?” I have the tendency to start reciting my scenes list. That *isn’t* what the book is about. I have a strong notion of the themes that I plan on exploring, but I know from past experience that new, unexpected ones will emerge. I welcome and relish those moments.

How about y’all? How do y’all talk about new books when you’ve just started?

5 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I never talk about what I am writing. I did it once and that story never got told after that.

Scott Parker said...

Interesting. That never occurred to me, but I guess it's the idea that you tell a person a story and you no longer have to tell it.

Lionking Cosby said...

Ed McBain (or Evan Hunter to his friends) once said that he wrote his books by envisioning the last scene then working backwards. I employ a variation on that technique. I try to get the first line down then write the last scene. I then create a rough outline of the story. It seems to work.

Lionking Cosby said...

Ed McBain (or Evan Hunter to his friends) once said that he wrote his books by envisioning the last scene then working backwards. I employ a variation on that technique. I try to get the first line down then write the last scene. I then create a rough outline of the story. It seems to work.

Scott Parker said...

Lionking Cosby - Now that is a method I've not experienced. Does you last scene, as written early in the process, ever change or does everything you write drive to that already-written scene?