I haven’t blogged for a week because, unfortunately, when something’s gotta give in my schedule, the blog is the first to go. I figure when it comes down to writing for my website or writing for Penguin, I will always choose the latter.
Last week was a mad scramble to get through some important research (not by any means the last of it, however) and do some last bit of outlining before I start writing book number seven. (I wish book number seven had a title so that I didn’t have to keep calling it book number seven, but until it does I’ll just refer to it as Velva Jean in Hollywood.) This weekend I took that outline– composed and arranged in a stack of virtual index cards through the writing program Scrivener– and presented it to my boyfriend. We sat on the sofa in our living room, surrounded by cats, and I told him the story from start to finish.
We did the same thing last year around this time when I was writing Becoming Clementine. I’m finding that nothing is more helpful, when you’re getting ready to write, than to tell someone you trust every single scene of the story. Some things don’t sound as strong or compelling or make as much sense when said aloud to an audience, and some sound even better so that you know you’re on the right track. He has questions or ideas, which lead to other ideas of your own, and before you know it you are reorganizing the puzzle pieces a bit until– oh yes– they seem to fit more naturally. You discard this and add that, and by the end of it you realize you’ve done a lot more good, solid work than you knew. As Louis said afterward, “You really know your story!”
Of course, it is fiction, which means things will change along the way. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “It’s like making a movie: All sorts of accidental things will happen after you’ve set up the cameras. So you get lucky. Something will happen at the edge of the set and perhaps you start to go with that; you get some footage of that. You come into it accidentally. You set the story in motion, and as you’re watching this thing begin, all these opportunities will show up.”
The important thing is to have a good, detailed idea of the first couple of chapters and know all the most crucial beats that follow. Inevitably the characters and story will veer from the path now and then, taking you places you don’t anticipate. But it’s good and necessary to have a road map.
So my road map is in place, even though the research will continue and the route will alter before I get to my destination. But now there are no excuses, no reasons to delay. The book is due in September and it’s time to draw the blinds and lock the doors and turn off the phone and start writing.