A NEW WRITING PROJECT
And so it begins. The start of a new novel. How do I commence? Where will the story be set? What kind of research will I have to do? What genre will I pick? Who are my cast of characters? These are just a few things I will have to ponder, as I begin a journey that, at present, has no ending. And within each of these questions will be a myriad of other questions I will have to answer along the way.
WHAT INFLUENCES MY CHOICES?
I think that every writer brings something of themselves to the books they write. Whether it’s some kind of life experience they want to share, a topic they want to explore, or perhaps the writer wants to experiment with a new style. It colours the outcome of the story. Personally, I like a happy ending, or at least the promise of one. Stories of hope that the reader can carry into their day. I am also interested in history, but I never dreamed that my next novel would be set at the turn of the last century creating a whole new challenge. It’s going to mean a great deal of research in order to get inside the time and space of my main character.
At this very moment I have a stack of books that I’ve either had sitting around — as though I was meant to write about this time period or topic — and those that I have since collected that I will have to painstakingly read through, take notes on, and generate ideas for the direction my story will take. Intimidating, yes, but not enough to stop me from trying. It takes time to go through all the material when all I want to do is write. It takes even more time to sort through the information I’m going to include as part of the story. Much of it will be left by the wayside, taking up space in my filing cabinet. But research in an integral part of the writing process for me. While it’s time consuming, it’s also exciting as I imagine how the story might unfold. While I have a general idea of what my character is after, and where they need to be to get it, I don’t have the details that research will ultimately give me.
When I’m at this stage of the writing process, I like to immerse myself. That is why, even though I’ve had a great deal of material waiting to be tapped, I have been distracted with tying up the publication and marketing of my current novel. That is winding down a bit now. It’s time to shift gears.
CHARACTER, SETTING AND GENRE:
I got lucky with character, setting and genre. One thing just led to another when my son, who has read my current novel and was introduced to Maggie Williams, who is in her 70s in 1963, when River of the Stick Wavers is set. One day he came across a picture online of a young woman painting on a dock, and he said, “This is Maggie.” I knew in that moment that hers was the story I was going to tell next. In order to do this, I would have to take her back in time, hence the genre will have to be historical. The setting will begin in the same location as the current novel, but I will take her farther afield. How far? I don’t know at this point.
READING TO WRITE:
Many writers will tell you that when they are in the midst of writing a story, they refrain from reading any fiction because they don’t want to be influenced by the author. Well, I do.
I want to read good writing, and in particular, I want to learn how other writers shape their story. Sure, I might be influenced by their style, but while I might like the way they’ve done something, I could never do it like they do, nor would I want to. There are seven basic plots in writing and no two people will tell the story in the same way because we all bring something unique to the table that changes how the story will be told. I cannot, not read. I’d go crazy. So, yes, continue to read while you’re writing that novel if this is what works for you.
GETTING MY HEAD IN THE GAME:
After five years of working on River of the Stick Wavers, it feels strange to be starting over. It also takes time to get me head in the game. I have been talking to my friends about my next novel for quite some time now and have yet to do anything beyond collecting research and having a general idea what my protagonist wants. It’s like anything else in life. There’s a process that you have to go through to shift gears from publishing to creating a story. I don’t know exactly what that process is, I just know it when I feel it. It’s also kind of scary. Can a do it again? — That is, write another book. It’s bloody hard work. But its work I want to do, have to do, if I want to be happy. Even with all its struggles, frustrations, uncertainties, and flailing around in the dark, I have to write. It doesn’t get any simpler, or more difficult, than that.