Thursday, May 7, 2009

preparing to write a new book

Wow, ambitious topic, right? But I'm starting Book four, (Twin Quest One) in my Mage series, so I'm struggling with the fundamentals here. The third one in the series, Jennivere's Journey, was just accepted last night, so I'm dancing! Just got a release date today for the second, Gareth's Gambit, which debuts Oct. 17th. Great week..Yay!!!

I'm hoping to get lots of response from my fellow writers.I'm sure we all go at this in very different ways. I'm hoping lots of you give me your take on what you do first. And maybe readers will have some helpful suggestions. Writing a book is a complex matter, and I have no easy answers. Although I get asked the question a lot, there's just no good way to explain what goes on in your head.

For me, I spend at least three of four weeks in research. All my books are set in a different place and time period. First I start formulating in my mind the characters, and that's pretty hazy at first. Then I really get down to business and start character sketches. This much I usually give as an answer to the casual questioner. I spend about six weeks getting ready to write.

Particularly with my protagonists, I want to know them VERY well before I write a word. I eventually make charts for them both. although I've probably written a part of the book before I get around to that. But they're in my head cooking away. The usual things you're advised to do. Determine the strongest wish, hidden desires, what he fears, faults, etc. Faults are very important to me. You don't want perfect characters, do you? There ain't no such thing. And secret fears delve sometimes into his childhood and he might not even know himself what's motivating him.

One of my favorite things to do is deciding on his Best Friend. You might need that guy or gal badly as a person for someone the hero can volley decisions and especially as someone to just plain talk it out. You might need BF to fall in love with the heroine to wake the hero up. Sometimes this understanding this best friend is easy. In my two series, a lot of the best friends are members of the same family and some are twins so the BF is predetermined. Sometimes not, especially if the twin is a different sex. Anyway BF is usually important.

I'm sure you've all well aware of the hidden fears and second agenda thing as it's covered in almost any lecture on how to write. I personally have fun with that one, and in the work I just accepted by my editor, Jennivere's Journey, her secrets drive the whole book. She's a bright girl, but stupidly stubborn on this point.

In the one I'm writing now, two twins have lived so much in each other's minds that when one decides he needs to find a life of his own the parting is painful. But Jason has to do this for reasons he doesn't quite understand. I'm counting on the heroine to help him out a little, since he's a little dense on this point. Even mages don't always understand themselves, it seems.

Happy reading and writing....


Anny Cook said...

Heh. How do I prepare to write??? I sit down at the computer, open a new document and write. Research is done along the way as necessary. Maybe around chapter three or four I mentally look ahead at the next two or three chapters. I'm afraid that I'm pretty much a pantster.

Fiona Jayde said...

I spend a lot of time prewriting. (I'm a big plotter - though most of the time, the characters take the plot into their own hands anyway)

Usually after I do my character prewrites and scene outlines, I draft a whole story in "raw" - going for wordcount and ignoring silly rules like grammar or "making sense". This way I at least know where the whole thing is going, even if a stubborn character decided to take himself into a totally new direction.

Then - during the first rewrite, I ask myself what the hell was I smoking when I wrote it:)


Marianne Stephens said...

Wow...I have to admit I don't do all the research you do. I kinda "head write" the book in my brain and then write a few sentences for book flow. Then I start writing above the sentences so I can always refer back to them.
Faults and secret fears...yep, our characters need those!
Nice blog!

Jean Hart Stewart said...

Thanks, all of you. I love knowing how we all are so different and yet end with the same thing, a book we love. Isn't life interesting?p

Solange Ayre said...

My method is more like Anny's, although I usually have some vague ideas about the plot. I often don't know the characters very well until I start working on the story. Choosing their names helps too - once I have their names, it gives me some ideas about what they're like.

Good post, Jean!

Nina Pierce said...

Total pantzer here. I sit down and write with an idea of what is going on, but it isn't until I've got a bunch of it written that I figure out who the characters really are. And I didn't know who the villain was in my last book until near the end of my first draft. But that happens a lot.

jean hart stewart said...

Wow, we've got a lot of pantsers here. I agree with Solange, the name helps a lot. Usually I know that before I start to write...

Anita Birt said...

I'm late reading your blog. I am astonished at the amount of pre-writing you do. Good for you. However, if I did all that I'd lose interest in my story.

I have an idea for a story, or I read something that interests me. I sit down and start writing. I know the names of the characters and where they live, time period, etc. but let the first three chapters flow. By that time, I have a real sense of my characters and will take time to jot down personal information about them.
We all have our little ways. I wish you every success.