Friday, June 26, 2009

beginnings, bites and lunches

Current work: Medical
Listening to: Colin Blunstone
Reading: next on TBR

One thing that interests me is how an author’s writing patterns change. When I first started writing Medical Romances, I used to have a really, really clear view of the beginning of a book, almost like watching a film, and I wrote the early sections of the book at a ridiculously fast speed. Then I hit the saggy middle, and by the end of the book it was like wading through treacle. The last chapter took me longer than the first five.

For some reason, this seems to have reversed nowadays. The beginning of the book is like treacle, the middle still sags and needs tightening up, and I have this clear view of the very end.

This is when it’s timely to read my mate Julie Cohen’s Ten Commandments as a reminder. Particularly #1 and #10. Really, there’s no point in whining about it and putting off the start of a book: it’s so much easier to fix a page that doesn’t work than to stare at a blank screen. (And yes, I DO need a holiday. Four weeks and counting…) Writing something that I’ll cut later might seem like wasted work, but actually it’s quite helpful for developing characterisation – kind of thinking on the page instead of in my head.

The big problem with this book is something I’ve set up in the outline: the hero and heroine don’t work together. Part of the premise of a medical romance is that they should work together: then the medical scenes underpin the romance and move the plot forward rather than acting as filler.

I guess that’s where the creativity us going to come in, because I don’t want to change who they are. The heroine is a neurosurgeon (pain relief specialist, not brain surgeon – there’s a lot of spinal work involved and it’s really interesting) and the hero is a GP (family doctor). Oh, and she’s currently on sabbatical.

Obviously they will have to work together so he can help solve some of her conflict; and working with her will also solve some of his. But. How to get them working together. Starting the book. Getting the momentum going so they speak to me clearly. (I can see the proposal scene and the end REALLY clearly). Hmm. A cup of coffee and ten minutes on Peggle is required, methinks.

Peggle? It’s my new vice: an X-box game. Husband and son both love gaming; I’m trying to show an interest for their sake, but RPGs and shoot-em-up games leave me cold. However, I noticed a review of Peggle in son’s X-box magazine and it intrigued me – you earn points by bouncing a ball off coloured pegs (which sounds dull, but it’s all about angles and strategy and there are lots of different levels and challenges). Son was a sweetheart and downloaded it; and he looked SO pleased with himself when he fished me out of my office to show me, bless. We’re all enjoying this one, though I’m currently stuck on the 400,000 points challenge.

Bites: for some reason, gnats take the meaning of my name very literally. Dear gnats: please note, I am not all honey, so please stop chomping on me – especially near the edge of the sleeve on my T-shirt, because that one is driving me insane. Today I reek of ammonia, owing to the need for frequent application of After-Bite. Note to self: buy citronella candles for use in garden. Another note to self: maybe the garden isn’t the best place to think or write…

But could you resist a sunny patio with a chair, table and a glass of sparkling mineral water with ice and a slice of lime? Not to mention a good view of the bird-feeder, the scent of honeysuckle and Mexican orange blossom, bees buzzing contentedly around the clover on the lawn and a spaniel lying flat out with his head resting on your feet? It’s a very nice work environment. Apart from the gnats.

Oh, yes, lunches: I’m out today with my ex-PTA mates for our termly lunch. Our birthdays fall very conveniently, one per term, so we have a great excuse to meet up. Too much talking and too much laughing – can’t beat it.

Anyway, today’s question: how have you found that your writing methods or routines have changed, over the last couple of years?

12 comments:

Nell Dixon said...

Avons skin so soft lotion deters gnats and midges - the lads and lasses in the forces use it in the desert to ward off sandflies.
I think my methods have changed a lot - I used to start books really quickly but now I find I do a lot more thinking at the start as the story begins to develop - usually the middle is ok and I hate writing the ends so although I know what I need to do I drag my heels and go play too much spider solitaire at that point

Liz Fielding said...

Interesting, Kate. I used to leap into the opening and race away until I hit the saggy middle bit and then with a clear image in my head of the final scene, race to the ending.

Maybe my set ups are more complicated these days, but I'm finding the beginning harder and harder and I'm having to keep working on it until something clears in the brain.

Infuriatingly I have loads of scene floating around in my head but I have to write in sequence or how do I know what the H/h will be saying to each other in those scenes?

It just gets harder.

Anonymous said...

But could you resist a sunny patio with a chair, table and a glass of sparkling mineral water with ice and a slice of lime? Not to mention a good view of the bird-feeder, the scent of honeysuckle and Mexican orange blossom, bees buzzing contentedly around the clover on the lawn and a spaniel lying flat out with his head resting on your feet?

No. And I probably wouldn't get any work done, either...

how have you found that your writing methods or routines have changed, over the last couple of years?

I used to be a pantser -- not out of choice, but because I'd tried writing from outlines and hated it. Now I know it was because my outlines weren't very good. I had to learn how to tell my stories before I could learn how to plan how to tell them (if that makes any sense).

The biggest breakthrough for me was learning to outline organically -- sketching out ideas, images, snippets of dialogue, etc, then organising the material into a coherent structure. Once I've done that, the writing just flows.

So now I outline everything, even short stories. That's the biggest change for me.

mpe

Donna Alward said...

Hey you! You know what works on bites? Hand sanitizer. It's the alcohol, I think. My eldest is funny. "Look mum, I can put this on my bite and ward off swine flu at the same time!" LORDY. But hey. Kills germs, soothes bites. Win win.

Oh my methods have SO changed. I used to plan a lot more. I used to have a synopsis at the beginning and a chapter outline. Now the longer I go the less I plan. I find laying out what's going to happen ahead of time takes away my magic. So my prelim work is almost all character. I take some time to get to know them and I have the set up scene in my head. I have a couple of other scenes in my head too and sometimes they make it in and sometimes they don't. And the ending DOES go faster than the rest of the book.

I think it changed, btw, because of confidence. After a few Romances, I knew I could craft one and I trusted myself to get there. I hadn't trusted myself to be able to do it "unassisted" before.

For me at least, it's the unplanned moments that are the biggest revelations. :-)

Now - I'm off to race to the end.

Olivia Ryan said...

Thanks for the link to Julie's Ten Commandments - which are brilliant! And yes, I do think my writing methods have changed. I wrote much more quickly when I was working full-time and fitting my writing into spare moments in evenings etc. Now I've (theoretically) got more time, I waste more, and I also tell myself I'm writing more carefully, but I'm not convinced the results are any better!

Lacey Devlin said...

Ah Kate you make me laugh :) let me know if pleading with gnats via blogspot works ;)

Kate Hardy said...

Nell - so with you on the dragging heels/playing Spider!

Kate Hardy said...

Liz - hugs.

Kate Hardy said...

MPE - I'm an uber-plotter, but I've found myself leaving my outlines until the last minute lately.

And yep, too right on the 'I wouldn't get any work done'. I didn't. (But I did get a crop of bites.)

Kate Hardy said...

Donna - hand sanitiser? REALLY? Must give it a try.

I've tried pantstering, but I find I just get sidetracked and it all becomes like porridge.

Kate Hardy said...

Olivia - absolutely right on the time thing. When I was in my ratrace job, I was studying for two different sets of professional exams and I still managed to produce six books a year. Now... Where does the time go?

Kate Hardy said...

Lacey - nope. They laughed and bit me some more :o(