Monday, March 18, 2013

Storytelling


I've been beating myself up for the last couple weeks. After I finished my revisions on Running from Ruby Ridge, I spent the normal amount of time enjoying the fact that I finished a freaking novel (how long is normal again?) and then I ... stagnated.

I'd had the idea for my next book in my head for a while, but I'm the kind of writer who can only focus on one thing at a time. I know some people who work on more than one project at once, but to me, that's nuts. So anyway, while I was drafting Ruby Ridge, I could not really think about Book the Next. I mean, I did think about it, of course, but I didn't really think about it, you know what I mean?

So now I spent the last two or three weeks diddling around. I wrote some character sheets (I've never messed with that before). I wrote an outline (a really bad, really thin one). I researched the bit of real life that inspired the story. But ... it wasn't until last night that I finally realized it was okay what I was going through.

Sometimes a story needs time to solidify in your mind. I wasn't to that point yet. I think I might be now.

How do you know when you're at the point? I'm not sure, and I'm not sure it's the same for everyone, but for me, it's when scenes are coming to you while you're driving. When the story is invading your dreams. When lines of dialog spring into your mind while you're in the shower. When you have to have a notebook, or at least your phone, with you at all times because you never know when you'll be struck with inspiration.

Yeah, I'm there.

When do you know you're ready?

36 comments:

Jessica Bell said...

When I go to bed at night and wish it was morning :-)

And yeah, it takes AGES for a story to solidify in my mind. Usually I end up winging the first third of the book, develop my characters, have a vague idea of where it's all going. And then by then, I figure out what the story is going to be. I map the rest of the story out, and then go back and make the beginning fit. All this usually takes me anywhere between 6 - 12 months. Yeah. I know. But if I don't let my ideas simmer, reveal, simmer, reveal, on and off like that, I would have shallow story lines, I imagine.

You're doing good. Plus, RFRR absolutely ROCKS. :-)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I'm pretty frustrated that I don't have Book 3 in my series planned out yet, even though I only finished Book 2 a couple weeks ago. I want to complete my revisions on Book 2, and I feel like I can't, unless I know what's going to happen in the next book. I want to have the whole 3 book story arc straight in my head ... and I don't.

But I might be getting closer. I'm having flashes of disconnected scenes -- out of order, but representing key events for one character or another. If I can piece them all together in the right order, I might just have found the story.

Old Kitty said...

Congrats on finishing Ruby Ridge and yay for your next big project! I'm terrible at focusing so I totally just write when the mood takes hold of me. I'm that lazy! LOL! But the idea niggles at the back of my head constantly in some vague miasma form.

Take care
x

Louise Bates said...

It varies for me, but usually when the story and/or characters just won't leave me alone. Like you said, scenes unfold while in the car, when the dialogue just bursts into your head and you have to scramble to write it down before it fades, when the characters get into fights because they're getting bored.

Of course, my current project unfolded in a completely different manner, so what do I know?

JeffO said...

You sound a lot like me. There's a definite period of 'simmering' needed before a story is ready. How do I know? I'll muse over it off and on, and then something will happen and it's just there. A scene. And once I write it, the rest of it starts to go. I love that moment.

Congrats on finishing Ruby Ridge and good luck with The Next Thing!

Kristen Wixted said...

I know--it makes me sort of hyperventilate when I can't get something pinned down in my head. But I think idea marination is an important step! (I heard an agent say that once at a conference.)

Laura Pauling said...

I totally know what you mean. Ideas will swim around in my head for weeks sometimes before I'm ready to even begin the prewriting! And then at times I need more prewriting than usual before I'm ready to start. :) Have fun!

Elise Fallson said...

I've been diddling around with my edits for weeks now. Not real motivated. But just last night I got a huge chuck done and I feel great. What changed? Music. I put my headphones on (something I hadn't done in a while), started listening to music and all of a sudden, it's 1am and I had charged through a large portion of my edits. Then I realized that every time I can put my headphones on and still can't ignore the story, then it's time.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

Do NOT beat yourself up. Some books will come to you fully formed. Some will stew in your mind for weeks or months before they're ready.

Others will linger back there for years.

Take pride in what you've finished. Then take some time to absorb life. I find that ideas sometimes come to term during long walks, Fringe marathons, and lots of long showers.

But an idea is something you just can't force.

Patchi said...

I seem to be the most inspired when I'm writing something else. When those random thoughts that don't pertain to the current project hit, they keep me awake and distracted. My strategy is to write them out in a journal. I have one for each project. When the ideas accumulate to about 2/3 of the notebook, I know I'm ready to start typing, organizing and filling in the blanks. For the first novel, that took about 15 years. For the second, just 1. And I have 3 more journals only half-full.

Good luck with your projects!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I feel the same way. I realized a long time ago the story needs to gel in my brain before I can start outlining and writing. Until that point it's like trying to carry water in a colander.

mshatch said...

I thought about my last novel for almost a month before I actually wrote anything. And I called my current wip 'practice' until I got over 10k, in case it fizzled out. I also actually outlined and plotted the one before while my current one has been pretty much pantsed. How I write is never the same it seems.

Glad you have a new toy :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I spend a long time figuring out the story and nuisances of it before I start the first draft. It can take me a solid month of planning before I'm ready to write the first draft. I'd rather put the time into the planning stage than regret rushing into the project later on.

farawayeyes said...

Ha, this is interesting. How do you know? I guess when it won't leave me alone. I dream it, I eat it and I can't sleep.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Awesome that you finished another story. I got stuck outlining. I had the general idea and the major plot points. Eventually I just started writing.

K. M. Walton said...

I'm a "one book at a time" writer too. Celebrate the fact that you wrote a damn book!!! I know I'm ready to dive into a new project when whatever I was working on feels done to me.

LTM said...

I don't. LOL! No, seriously, I'll get to the point where I'm so frustrated, I have to sit down and just START. Or I'll procrastinate forever. But once I start, it's all good.

Enjoying your book, btw! :o) <3

Michael Offutt, S.F.A. said...

I guess I'm a bad person to go to for advice on stuff like this. All of the stories I write existed as one chapter fragments left on my hard drive. I'm working on one now that had like ten chapters that I wrote back in 2000. So basically, I write multiple stories at the same time and when I get tired of them, I mothball them on the hard drive and grab something else that I haven't worked on (sometimes for a decade) and then just start working on it again. So that's basically where all of my "next" stories are coming from. But I publish a lot more online than you do. I publish a chapter a week on a porn site, and I love the weird quirky emails I get from my readers. Some of them are so horny!

Courtney Barr - The Southern Princess said...

Congratulations on the completion!!!!

For me, one of those crazy people who talks with her characters, it tends to be the moment I wake up tasting, seeing, and literally living within that world. It does not always pan out but for however long it is a glorious adventure ;)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It took me months and months to come up with an idea for CassaStorm and then over four months of outlining. No rush. Let it stew for a while.

Nancy Thompson said...

I could've written this post, word for word. It's my experience exactly. One project at a time. The next is percolating but vague, then BAM! A haphazard assault of scenes & dialogue. That's why I always keep my phone with me. It's easy to jot down notes, even at night. For me, I've come to realize that I need to let it happen organically. That's not to say I can't think & stew over it. That's what helps generate new ideas & directions. But the story has to reveal itself to me rather than me forcing it out. I will say, though, I write longass outlines, like 120 pages. It really helps when drafting. You should try it!

SC Author said...

I start with an outline and en I write. But usually, the idea fosters a LONG time in my mind before I outline.

Andrew Leon said...

Well, I just typed out a really long comment about my system, but I got a server error from blogger when it tried to post, and the comment is gone. Remind me, and I'll tell you about it later.
Bah!

By the way, how is House coming?

L.G. Smith said...

Yep, when I find myself slipping into daydreams about scenes I want to write, I know it's time to start the story. I don't outline, so just getting started is a big deal. :)

Joe Lunievicz said...

When the idea won't go away. Sometimes I know quickly but that's rare for me. Usually an idea sits for months and months and just won't go away. It sits on my doorstep and won't go away. The damned thing won't go away.

Be patient with yourself. Trust the process.

mooderino said...

Letting things marinate is all part of the process. That's what I tell myself, anyway.

mood

Cheree Smith said...

When the ideas plague my mind even when I'm really supposed to be thinking about other things, that's when I know it's time to start.

Sarah Ahiers said...

I don't really know when i'm ready. I think usually when i'm sick of the one i'm working on, i guess.
Also, that pic makes it seem like the fisherman is telling that boy to go to his room. In the sea...

Donna K. Weaver said...

I just leap right in.

Joanne Fritz said...

I have to let a new idea marinate for months while I work on something else (usually a revision). I've tried revising one book while I write another, but I just can't do it!

But the marinating idea bubbles up eventually, like a stew that's ready, and won't leave me alone. That's when it's time.

Good luck with your new idea, Matt.

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maine character said...

Anne Tyler said it's when she starts to dream about her characters, so she wants you to know that you should get started on this sucker!

Helene said...

For me it's when my MC won't leave me the $%*(%$ alone. HOPEFULLY I have something resembling a plot by that point, but the full story usually comes to me as I'm writing, but I don't think I could start anything until I had a good handle on the important characters.

Liza said...

Just about the same as you. I can only focus on one thing too. I know I'm there though, when I've taken a break and the new thing keeps coming to me...when I start having to scribble notes down and I look forward to insomnia because it means I can think more new story thoughts!

Eliza Tilton said...

I had that issue with my last story. It could be the best novel I've ever had concept wise, but I just can't get into it. I put it to the side and started work on book#2 of my fantasy.

Deniz Bevan said...

Sounds about right :-) That's how it usually happens with me, at any rate. And drafting comes so much more smoothly than editing!