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Sunday, 22 May 2011

Writing and Weaving



I should be writing. By which I mean that I'm trying desperately to finish a coherent draft of Revolution - ideally by the end of May - and doing anything else right now feels like procrastination of the highest order.

Nevertheless, procrastination in the interests of getting a blog post posted is the justifiable kind...

A few people have asked me lately about my writing process, and it seems to be a little unconventional, so I thought I'd try to write coherently about what I do.

In the beginning, I write very erratically. I scribble notes to myself on post-its or the backs of bus tickets, often just two or three lines of dialogue which capture the main turning point of a scene. Later - back at my computer - I type up a little more detail. This usually involves the rest of the dialogue first, and only after that's written do I think about the surrounding action (at which point I close my eyes and watch the scene play out in my head, until I can confidently write a description).

I keep collecting these scenes until I feel like I've got enough to work with, often 1/2 to 3/4 of the final word count of the book. By this point you could read the scenes I've written and understand the overarching plot, but it wouldn't flow, and so it's time for the next phase. I call this part weaving because I've got my threads and need to pull them together into some kind of coherent fabric. New material has to be written to join the existing scenes together, and I usually end up having to interleave separate sub-plots which I've written independently. This part is much harder for me, and it's the stage I'm at now with Revolution. Because I have to hold the picture of everything in my head at once, I can't do it in odd minutes here and there: it has to be hours at a time or I completely lose my way. I often end up re-writing scenes because my first version doesn't quite fit with its necessary position in the plot. This is also the point where I start drawing timelines: it shouldn't snow in summer unless something really strange is happening!

By the time I have a finished "first draft" - something that you could read from beginning to end - most of the individual scenes are on their third (or more likely tenth) redrafting.

I'll then give this draft to a few trusted friends for comments, which is the best way to find out which parts don't quite work as well as I'd hoped. I can then go through a full edit, beginning to end, and write a better draft. This is relatively easy again, by which I mean that I can do it in small chunks. From here on it's an iterative process, making continuous small improvements until I decide it's "good enough" (since I'd never stop if I aimed for perfection).

It's only the middle "weaving" phase which feels like a full time job. And I'd better get back to it...

8 comments:

Bibliomama said...

Very interesting. And I think it makes sense - dialogue is SO important. If it sounds unnatural, it turns me right off a book. Happy weaving.

emma said...

How does this work when you do NaNoWriMo? Do you still do the same amount of prep and in the same way?

Heidi said...

The possibility of having to weave scares me so much, I avoid it altogether. I write chronologically, from beginning to end, so that I don't have to do any of that (don't know if I could if I had to). I write character driven books, though, not plot driven, so that makes it easier to write that chronologically. FYI, the last couple of days I have started to wonder what happens next to Eleanor and her friends . . .can't wait to read the next one!

Rachel said...

Goodness. Given that most of my writing has been non-fiction and technical, I've been able to avoid the "weaving" part. I think that's just as well, as it makes me dizzy just to think of it!

Happy weaving...

Galit Breen said...

I love learning about people's writing processes! Thanks so much for sharing yours! Now go write! The end of May is just around the corner and I am so, SO, inspired by your motivation! Go Rachel go! :)

Rabbit Hole Report said...

I love the weaving analogy and can identify with the "scraps of paper" method. Although now my iPhone notes are a bit neater. And greener. :)

Bon courage with this phase and the ones to come.

christine said...

I'm sooo looking forward to being a trusted friend and getting my hands on a copy of Revolution - I'd better re-read Rebellion just to refresh my memory ... xx What a hard life:)

Charlotte said...

I always love to read about the writing process for others as I think this helps to shape (and even refine) my own. Seems the way we approach writing is very similar.

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