Tick tock, tick tock… my client W.E. Larson‘s writing functions like a well-oiled mechanical device, in the best sense of the phrase. I don’t mean that there’s no humanity in it, but rather that all the plot pieces fit together and unfold so gracefully, like clockworks or the inside of an old fashioned music box. And he has fun while writing. Imagine that?! Here’s what he has to say…
Something I’ve learned about myself while writing novels and stories is that there are parts that I work on before writing the story itself and parts that I don’t. It isn’t that not working at something means you’re better at it– it could be quite the opposite–but that it doesn’t feel as if it gains you anything.
Some people work on characters before starting the novel. I’ve come across character templates to fill out, advice to write vignettes in each character’s voice, and other exercises for developing the characters in the story. When I’ve done that work, it never seemed to change the characters from how they were born in my imagination. Only by writing the actual story do they evolve. I know them well when I finish that first draft and move on to overhauling the manuscript.
For me, the same applies to the setting. In a fantasy story, you can spend a lot of time building a world and crafting all sorts of details. This is something else I like to leave until I start writing the story itself. I create details as I need them, and during rewriting and revising I assemble them into a setting and flesh it all out. Though this doesn’t work for me in some science fiction where I need to make things plausible.
What I work on the most before writing is the plot. Some people can plunge in and create a plot by the seat of their pants, but that isn’t me. Fortunately, I like plotting. Why do I always imagine myself sitting in a chair stroking a white cat when I say that? Anyhow, I enjoy the puzzle-like aspect of it all.
Somehow I’ve got to take all the scenes and characters in my imagination and fit them into a whole. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle where I’m making the final image at the same time as I’m fitting in the pieces. I start with the key scenes and make sure I have some for the beginning, the end, and save or invent some good ones for the middle. I always want to save a nice juicy event for the middle. Maybe the scenes are pivotal events, or pivotal emotional moments, or pivotal turns in a relationship, but they are the scenes that make me want to write the story.
With some milestones anchoring the plotline, the fun begins and it’s time to dream up the scenes that put everything together. They’ve got to advance the story to one of the milestones while keeping characters in character, avoiding impossible timelines–no two hour nights, and providing motivation to push the characters along the storyline.
I try to make every scene both snap into place with the adjoining ones while also making sure each one contributes something to the whole. For me, this is where pacing comes into play. If every scene contributes without a string of pieces all contributing the same color, then the final picture won’t have dull stretches of a single color. Maybe a bit of a simplistic analogy, but it’s the way I think about plotting out the story. If I didn’t think of it that way, maybe it wouldn’t be as fun.
What do you work on before you start that first draft?