Thursday, August 24, 2017

Building That House er Novel

I recently finished reading an enthralling novel, 'No Time For Goodbyes'. In an interview the Canadian author, Linward Barclay, was asked how he began with the idea to form the story. He said "Once you come up with a premise, you have to work out how the story unfolds." Well that's fairly obvious. But what he said next got me. 

"It's a bit like coming up with a spectacular roof design first. Before you can get it up there, you need to build a solid foundation and supporting structure."

Yes, that's exactly what I've been working on. I had an unusual idea first, and since then I've been steadily building on the structure, walls and windows, you know, supporting the original idea and letting in glimpses of light so the reader has an idea what's coming, but a little unsure. (Can't give away the plot can you?)

Now you'd think I'd have worked on the foundation first. I tried that but it wasn't too solid so I've been going back, (actually several times so far) and shoring up the groundwork.  I really don't think I could have begun with the foundation first - unlike building a house - because the background could only be written afterward.  You see, I had several different directions (plans) but just had to try out each one before BINGO, it worked. Now i have my solid foundation.

Incidentally, I'm so glad a house isn't built like that or it'd be a disaster. Brick by brick it goes up according to the exact plan. Hah! Many of us pantsers wouldn't be able to work that way. We like our characters to surprise us. That is, after we've fleshed them out, they have their own ideas how they'd react.

I can't wait to get to the roof. That's where my original idea will climax, wrapping up the whole plot. Does this make sense to you when you get your first idea? Or do you know the end from the beginning and then start building?



 

25 comments:

  1. Well presented Rita. Love the analogy of the house. I haven't written much fiction - God's mainly called me to non fiction writing. But whenever I've dabbled my hands in it - that's exactly what I've done. Found a premise and then worked backwards. Interesting that we do the opposite of what builders of houses do. Also interesting that when God created us, He brought to life the entire creation in one go - rather than in parts! :) Blessings on your writing journey Rita and many thanks for your interesting post.

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    1. Thanks Anusha. It really helps us to understand why we work the way we do. I always ask the Lord for His guidance, especially when I'm stuck and I get such a kick when the inspiration comes and I can go forward to the next stage.

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  2. Loved your post, Rita. With me, it depends on the story. Sometimes, I have an ending and have to work out how to get there. Sometimes, I have a beginning and follow where it takes me. Sometimes I have a premise and have to work out who it is about and why. As you say, good thing writing is more akin to building cloud castles than brick and mortar structures - though in the end we do need all the elements present. 😊

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    1. Jeanette, I wonder how many folk work like this? As you have found also - "working what the story is about and why". I honestly think i would find it difficult to hold my interest if I knew every step of the way ahead of time. But then we all have our different methods to get the story out there, don't we?

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  3. Great analogy, Rita. My current WIP has had some issues with foundations, and seems to have been one of those 'houses' which sit abandoned for months with only the concrete poured! Praise God that I've finally got the walls up, and the roof will go on in the next few days :)

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    1. OK, another great story from Mz Miller, people. We all seem to struggle with these issues. But it's all the sweeter when we've completed building our novel.

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  4. Great analogy. Interestingly though with both my novels my starting idea has been the opening scene...but with my children's books it's been more the middle, then the end, then the beginning ☺

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    1. I originally called you ally & then it got deleted. That's why the silly comment. :)

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  5. Wonderful post Rita :-)
    I love the analogy. I usually start with an idea that has no foundations of course, and I build a bit here and a wee bit there, until I am reasonably satisfied. I do try to plot and plan, but an awful lot of pantsing goes on. I love that word. Although I haven't written a complete book as yet (well sort of not), I find that I use the same pantsy method for anything I do whether it be writing a blog post, reviewing a book (although I do make notes while I am reading), or working on my current main project. I guess as writers we need to do what works for us, but yes I am so glad they don't build houses this way ... although I sometimes have to wonder.

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    1. You might be right Jo, as far as houses go. That is from what I've seen on TV! Yes, we all have our own methods of getting there in the end.

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  6. Great advice Anusha, thank you! That sounds more or less like my planning.

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  7. As long as we arrive at the end completely satisfied, Rachel. Well maybe not completely. Even after we've been published we often find better ways to write things.

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  8. Love ya work Rita!
    Isn't it wonderful how creative minds think....differently!

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    1. Thanks Di. Yep,
      just as well we can stretch the 'rules'.

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  9. I hear you, Rita! I'm a tweener. I like to have some plot posts sorted, but I also like things to emerge. My novel has changed so many times since I started that it bears little resemblance to the original. I'm still doing the structural edit and am thinking how much easier it would have been if I'd had more of those plot posts sorted to begin with. But like you, I had to try some of them out to know if they'd work or not. Good luck with yours.

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    1. Hi Nola, I love the way you've discovered your novel 'bears little resemblance to the original'. That makes for a fascinating, if maybe sometimes, frustrating journey. And we learn as we go.

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  10. Awesome, thank you. I straddle the fence. My book series is fiction, but it - at least initially - had 'signposts' in it as I went through the gospel of John. But it was soon following the characters and deciding if that was the 'right' direction. Book 5 is current, and the way I am going it is threatening to spill into a book 6. Not a good idea. I need the roof for the series. LOL (thanks for a refreshing and encouraging read after a couple of days of health issues. And the replies have been encouraging too... I am not alone LOL

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    1. So true dear Susan. We are definitely not alone. We all have the same struggles. And that probably makes our writing ring true.

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  11. Fabulous analogy, Rita! I'd have gone stir-crazy if I hadn't read Jean-Luc Goddard's quote that 'A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, not necessarily in that order.' While I've stacked up quite a few building materials for my next novel, I might start with the roof and work backwards to avoid giving away too much, too soon.

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  12. A very interesting way to describe the process of the novel you're writing. My latest novel has been a bit of random collection of pieces and it's taken a long time to bring them all together into a cohesive whole. Thanks for sharing your experience. Really enjoyed this blog.

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    1. I guess you could say yor writing style is like Quilting. All those bits & pieces coming together and making the finished M/S.

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  13. Interesting analogy Rita. Interesting to hear how many fellow authors are planners vs pantsers.

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