Monday, June 4, 2007

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut

Every time I start a new book, I panic at the idea of sustaining close to another 80,000 to 100,000 words. I know I can talk a lot, but can I roll out a story that long that is interesting to the reader? Then, out of nowhere, the story starts to take form. Joe and I talk, talk, talk the story, and magically it keeps unraveling. Sometimes the thread goes in a completely different direction than expected, sometimes it is right on the projected track, and sometimes it snags and tangles and we have to back up. But how do we keep doing it over and over--all of us? When you think of how many books have been written, it amazes me that we keep coming up with new twists or fresh ideas. How can they not have all been taken already? Yet, everyday I come across something that stirs a new story seed. It might be a magazine or news article or a simple conversation I have with someone or overheard waiting in line at the grocery check out. But isn't it some kind of supernatural happening that allows us to build and expand that little bubble of an idea and eventually spill it out onto around 500 computer printed pages? I have come to believe that we are a unique breed. Composing a novel should be such a daunting task that nobody would want do it, Yet here we are, having at it, time and time again. Contrary to the public's perception, very few get rich from writing, and most of us can't totally support ourselves with the spoils from our books. So why do we keep doing it? Writing a book should scare the hooey out of us, and still we keep plowing through. Nobody other than another writer understands what drives us. Even if we can't put our finger on it, we have a gut-level appreciation. Thank heavens for conferences and blogs like this where we can spend some time with other nuts who have this insane compulsion to write. So, have a great day fellow mad writers. Now, go whip out 15 pages before supper!


Mark Terry said...

Good to know that other people's books don't always go according to plan, too. Sometimes, like my upcoming The Serpent's Kiss, I start with a plan, know where I'm going, and the book seems to write itself. I'm working on the 4th Derek Stillwater novel, tentatively titled The Valley of Shadows, and this book isn't like taking a map and going on a trip, it's like stumbling through a mine field blindfolded. I'm pretty sure I'll get to the end, but man! it's been an unpredictable, zig-zagging trip.

So why do it?

Dunno. 'Cause I can?

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Einstein

Just a thought ...

Candy Calvert said...

A friend gave me a photo of a battered old desk and an ancient manual typewriter. The caption below it reads:

"We write to taste life twice."--Anais Nin

I framed it and it sits on my desk.

Maybe it's personal craziness, or maybe it's a characteristic of writers: but when I have a new experience (an urban setting, a unique meal, a slice of nature, even a collage of color in some marketplace, sounds, textures, smells) I almost ITCH to capture that event in words. To re-create for myself and for others.
Do the rest of you feel that way?

Deb Baker said...

I've never been good with outlines. My characters have minds of their own and set out on the most complicated paths, ones I'd NEVER pick. But I'm working on a proposal and have to write a synopsis. My characters don't exist to help me. What to do?

Mark Combes said...

I've had people ask me why I write books? What makes me want to do it? Seems like a lot of work they tell me.

My answer is, "Do you have a favorite book? A book you just loved? How did you feel when you read that book? Where you excited? Thrilled? Brought to tears?

I have the same feeling writing the books as I do reading them. That's why I write books.