Sunday, October 3, 2010

The 'Writerly' Life

The last posts have been heavy on the equestrian and lighter on the ink, so today I'm going to write about, well, writing. The topic is on my mind because for the past three weeks I have been working on a new project. Only if you were a fly on the wall, you would rarely see me doing anything remotely 'writerly'. I've been gardening, riding, working on lesson plans (for my teacher half) and reading about forensic science. I was starting to feel guilty (a useless emotion most of the time) about the lack of actual fingers to keys until I watched an interview with writer Aaron Sorkin. He told the interviewer that it took him six months to write the opening scene of the movie Social Network, except--he said--that if you had watched him 'writing' this scene what you would actually see him doing was sitting in front of the TV, listening to music, etc. All the writing was going on in his mind, so when he sat down to write the scene, it took him only the time to type it out to get it on paper.
Okay, I'm not as brilliant as Aaron Sorkin; however, his statement helped assuage my guilt. For the past three weeks, my brain has been working overtime, reworking the plot and structure of my next YA. Nothing is on paper except scrawled notes such as:
"Blood can be catagorized as wet blood, dry blood and spatter blood."
And "If the victim and suspect lived together, the transfer of fibers, hairs and fingerprints will be insignificant in many instances." (From The Crime Scene: How Forensics Works)
For me, this research is crucial for the new book. As the plot develops, so do my characters, dialogue and scenes--all in my head at this stage. In fact, my writing brain often works without me until suddenly a perfect idea or solution pops into consciousness, making me do a silent, "ah ha! That's how the scene needs to be written!"
For me, it's almost magic. How about you? I'd love to hear how other writers work.

7 comments:

Laura Crum said...

Jami--I work a lot the way you do. For me, it looks like this: I ponder the books in my mystery series several books ahead, thinking about titles and plots of future volumes as I work on the current one. Then, for instance, right after I finished my eleventh book, "Going, Gone", which came out this last spring, I wrote the outline and first three chapters of book twelve. Since then I have mostly been mulling it over, letting it sink in, so to speak. Soon now, I'll write the rest of it (its due to be turned in next spring for publication spring 2012). I find that the many months when I don't actively work on the book have an important part to play in the process. Just like you, during that time problems work out, and details are resolved; when I actually write the rest of the book, I'm quite clear on what needs to happen. Great post!

Bouncin' Barb said...

I am just beginning to to come to terms that I want to write a book. I started it with my Bouncin' Thru Life blog and there is just so much more detail that needs to be written. While I have a great memory for detail my short term memory is affected by medication that I take and if I don't write a note I forget what it is that I wanted to jot down. I'm blaming the meds and not my age!! haha.

Alison said...

Laura--it was me, Alison, who wrote the post on writing. Jami wrote the interesting one on airbags!

It sounds as if we work in much the same way (mysteriously!)

Bouncin' Barb--I'm blaming age and not meds for my memory. I write everything down! Good luck with your book--just remember it's a lot more difficult than a blog, but if you love writing, you'll get there.

Linda Benson said...

Alison - great post. I do a lot of work "mulling" in my mind, too. In fact, in between writing projects, I now let myself do absolutely nothing for awhile, and I find it very freeing for my creativity. Because of course, we are still researching, learning new things, and letting our unconscious ramble around on its own, which is a large part of the process of coming up with new ideas. But "blood?" LOL. Now you DO have me intrigued over your next project *grin*

Laura Crum said...

Sorry, Alison, I guess I didn't look closely enough. I associate Sunday posts with Jami because that's been her "day" for so long. I enjoyed your post very much.

Breathe said...

I have solved many a plot problem all of a sudden when I'm driving, which is why I always give myself 5 minutes cushion to pull over, jot some notes and head on.

Sometimes I guess the body needs to be in motion for the brain to get there too!

There's a certain amount of butt in chair needed, but mulling is just as necessary.

Alison said...

Great comments--and it seems mulling and writing in one's mind is very common.

Now if only the publicity part of being an author was as easy.