Archive for August 5th, 2011

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Rosemary
Plot and Process

I’m living in book world right now. What this means (for me) is that I’ve gotten to that sweet spot where I’m either writing about, or thinking about, my book 24 hours a day. I’m picking up the phone to text my heroine a warning. I’m hearing her opinion on everything we see and picking my meals based on her preferences. I’m visualizing car chases and calculating how I can get to Saint Louis from Minneapolis in 8 hours and debating whether someone would stop for breakfast after they’ve stolen a car.

What this also means (for you) is that you shouldn’t count on me for anything, including coherent conversation, and if you’re smart you’ll stay away from anyplace I happen to be driving.

Book World happens because of what I will laughingly call my Process. Certain people near and dear to me give me a hard time because I write more slowly. Some might say… ploddingly. That I have to write 600 pages to end up with a 400 page novel, which IS true. It’s also true that those 200 pages are brilliant–genius, even–but they are unnecessary, and the only way I find that out is when the whole book is done.

So the *actual* truth is that I’m a spectacularly inefficient writer. If it takes me six months to write a book (a number I just made up, by the way, to preserve an air of mystery) then I spend four of them writing the first third of the book and two of them writing the rest.

Except, this isn’t inefficient. It’s what works for me. Creativity basically has five stages:
1) Preparation
2) Frustration
3) Incubation
4) Illumination
5) Translation into Action

This is a repetitive cycle. You don’t get one turn around per book. I sometimes go through this cycle for every paragraph. Or, you know… word. (But it’s a darn good word I pick at the end of it.)

So for four months of my book cycle, I spend the majority of my time in the first three stages, with frequent flashes of 4 that lead to brief bouts of 5. Then the magic happens.

In every book, I hit a point where I’ve laid all the groundwork, I’ve figured out what doesn’t work, and I know what I have to do. I know how my world works, my characters are cast so they’ll stay true, and I know where the clues are laid and where the treasure is, and if I don’t know exactly how they’re going to reach it, the preparation I’ve done lets me just… go along for the ride.

I still have to go through the cycle. But the percentages change. Frustration and Incubation happen while I’m refilling my coffee, or sometimes even in the pause of my fingers on the keyboard, and I spend most of my day trying to type fast enough to translate the illumination into action.

So if you see me in the next month, and I don’t look all there? Cut me a little slack.

And you might want to give me a little extra room on the highway.