Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Running into the Trees in the Forest

I've just started writing a new book. First of all, forgive me. I have book brain. I'm truly not sure if I'm making sense at all.

Here's my deal. I love creating characters. I love creating situations. I love writing dialogue and developing a setting that is meaningful. I'm hopeless at stringing it all together in a linear fashion which is pretty much necessary when you're writing a book.

I got so twisted up last week, a friend (you know who you are Serena Robar) had to spend several hours on the phone talking me through my own book. At one point, she said that it had gotten so big and complex that I couldn't see the forest for the trees. It's a good metaphor, but I'm not sure it's accurate.

I think I might actually only see trees and no forest. Seeing the forest would imply that I still had a sense of the shape of the book. When I'm at this point, I don't think I can see the shape of it anymore. If I could, I might now where all those individual trees (or scenes as we professional authors like to call them) might belong.

So it's a new week and I wrote ten pages today which is the Eileen equivalent of running a half marathon, but I'm terrified. I feel like I'm running through the forest blindly and at any second I might run into a tree and break my nose. Of course, then maybe I could get that nose job I've always wanted.


Molly O'Keefe said...

I think the grooming of random trees into a forest is the hardest part of writing. I really do. It actually gives me a physical reaction - I'm stressed, pre-occupied, I can't sleep, I can't focus and all that manic energy doesn't help get the job done. I have that stress at the beginning of the book and then again at the last undred page sprint, when all those clever little loose ends I've created come back to strangle me. Good friends who will spend hours talking about your book are worth thier weight in gold.

Good luck Eileen

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, Eileen. Once again we prove to be sistahs from a different muthah.

I'm about 22K into a book and feeling that way, too. My CP's ask me questions and I have a dumb stare on my face and ramble about the plot and it's elements as if I don't have a clue, even though I really do have a lot of trees. I'm sure of it. And I'm pretty sure they'll form a forest. Some day. But how??? Not too sure right now. And both Sinead and Molly have explained my book to me on more than one occasion. That's why I let them hang out with me. ;-)

Eileen said...

Maybe I need to come hang out with you guys, too. It's so confusing some times! I spend all this time complicating and layering and twisting and then I can't keep track of it anymore. Outlining is hard, but I really need to do it with these suspense books.

I'm always convinced that there's a system out there that will make these easy. Any ideas?

Shannon McKelden said...

Now you see why Serena is my critique partner? I can question her on her grammar and passive voice and whether or not her characters sound realistic, but I need HER to fix my plot. To see the big picture, to question my character's motives, to find MY forest.

I totally get you, my dear. You, me and Maureen should start a support group. "What the Hell am I Doing Anonymous."

Eileen said...

Hi, my name is Eileen and I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

Oh, yeah, Shannon, I'm ready.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I don't know what the heck youralls problem is?

Characters float into your mind, along with a plot ... it all just comes into your head in a big SHABANG moment with general concepts of beginning, middle and end.

You sit down and write that story.

What? Am I alone in this?

Don't be haters... :)

Oh and I never said the story was good. I don't try to fix it, layer it, grow it. I don't take second or third or fifth options. That's that crazy craft talk that I'm always avoiding.

I sit. I write it like I see it. And I hope to heck someone wants to buy it.

Eileen said...

Stephanie, if we're ever in the same room I'm going to bitch slap you across it. Hand to God, I'm going to.

Seriously? It just bursts out of your head like Athena full grown from Zeus? If I sat real close to you, do you think some of that would rub off?

No wonder you got published when you were seven! You're a phenomena!

Stephanie Doyle said...

Eileen... that doesn't feel like happiness to see me ;-)

And you look tall in your picture so I might be officially frightened.

It's not like "Athena". It's more like... that voice over guy from the movies.

"In a world where there was nothing..." Da dah... "A man and women fight for" Da dah.

I'm realling not sure if that's going to translate in comments.

But I see the opening scene. I know who they are. And then I get snips like movie clips throughout the story that tells me what the concept is, the basic plot points, and how it ends.

That said - it's not always great and most always way too simple.

For my new WIP I changed the killer because in my "snap shot" it was just too obvious. That's a first for me. We'll see how it works out.

But that's why I've got to work so hard to push myself. I have to rethink what I see. I have to question if it's the right direction. I have to add more to what comes. Because what comes is always the book... but it's not always a good book.

And I blow a lot of ideas - because I won't rework. If the agent or editor says... I loved "this" but not "that" - then the whole idea goes out the window.

I can't pull elements from different ideas. It's either there or it's not.

So my way has got just as many limitations/drawbacks.

Molly O'Keefe said...

We have a critique partner and she's a pantser and the beginning of every book is such a joy for her. It's fun, figuring stuff out and putting in twists and fun little reveals...tra la la. And I won't lie, sometimes I want to kill her - but her end of book process is a nightmare - so I guess you get it at some point no matter what!

Eileen said...

Yes, Stephanie, I am tall. Be afraid. Be very afraid. :-)

Okay, fine. I won't slap you. I will however try to rub against you and get a little of that natural storytelling fairy dust because it sounds like that's what you have.

Molly's right. There are good moments and bad no matter how your process works. I'm in the baddish phase right now, I guess. At some point, it will click and the words will race out my fingertips and I'll sit at my computer alternately laughing and crying.

Still, having it come to me like that sounds blissful right now.

Maureen McGowan said...

I'm still in the baddish phase on my book... and not even sure I'll find time to post today. I am a bad bad blogger...

Marcy said...

Glad to see it's not just us pre-pubbed writers who get stuck on this stuff :)

mizwrite said...

Wow, I needed to read this today, Eileen! I hear ya' and am going through the same thing.

And not to throw another metaphor into the mix (your trees and forest is quite lovely), but I always adored the comment by E.L. Doctorow on this same issue: "[Writing is] like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

Good luck!

Eileen said...

Ha! I'm a terrible night driver. I think it all might come down to a control thing. I feel like I'm careening through the forest with no control over where I'm going.

I never used to think of myself as a person with control issues, but I'm beginning to suspect that it's only because my two older sisters are such control freaks that they make me look laid back in comparison.

Syreeta said...

hey i am current in doubt I wrote a book it finished did it in 2 months but what follow after is exhausting, I am self publishing because i think that my book is worth it. i believe in me haha but now i am confronted with the grammar and other thrills of getting a book publish it very expensive especially the editing bit, they tell you the this and that of the book is not up to par but you believe you want to bring change can someone tell me if spending so much money that i don't have on my book worth it or is there someone out there that is a editor and loves to read that can help me out with the grammar and the book over all appreciate await and look forward to the word.

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