The craft of writing
I’d love to be able to tell you that the sequel to Wolfbound is coming along swimmingly, that you’ll have it in your hands by X deadline, but unfortunately, it’s not.
Writing has never been a straightforward process for me. It’s all about circles, ever widening spirals that slowly approach something worthy of print. A book begins as the bare seed of an idea: a woman who is a werewolf, for example. But no, that’s not the true beginning, is it? It’s subtler than that; I begin writing a book before I even know I’m writing it. I begin by collecting impressions, gathering them, storing them up until they start to compound into a whole. Aching knees, and the way I need to distract my mind from physical pain to be able to bear it stoically. The way the noise of a bus ride makes me jumpy and anxious, and how glad I am to have headphones to block it out with something familiar instead. An image of a wolf running through the brush at the side of the road, keeping pace with the taxi. The feeling of being trapped in an airplane, and the idea that it’d be ten times worse if I were a werewolf. From these images, a character is born: a girl who doesn’t feel right in her own skin. Thanks to the hours I spent in the library at my undergrad campus, reading everything they had on faeries, a world with fae creatures in it feels right for that character. And a boy; there’s always a boy these days. A boy with mysterious green eyes, the kind of boy you know you shouldn’t fall for but can’t help but do so anyway.
Outward it spirals, not quite approaching book shape but more collecting plot nuggets. Soon the characters begin to speak in my head. I hear snippets of dialogue, quite out of sequence, apropos of nothing, but I can weave a thread of plot in between them, and suddenly I’m Writing A Book. If all goes well, a month or two later I’ve Finished A Book, and I can set it down and let the characters rest for a time before the hard work of editing begins.
Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. Sometimes, aware of encroaching self-imposed deadlines, I try to begin Writing A Book with less of a grasp on the characters than I ought to have. Sometimes the writing helps me shape the characters; often, however, I end up discarding what I’ve written and having to start fresh once I’ve learned who these people really are and what I want them to do.
My editor says I have almost 10,000 words on the novel I’ve been trying to write for a year. But I wasn’t ready to begin until now. Much of it can probably be saved, but I’ll need to begin anew, more confidently for the having tried and failed. The end result should be worth it, though. Each book I write is better than the last simply by virtue of understanding the craft more and more with time.