Friday, September 21, 2007

What in the World

My friend Jody has been asking (**koff** nagging**koff**) about the universe in which I’ve set my current WIP. When presented to her for sage advice and critique, one of her first questions was why had I set it in the world I did (it’s a non-Earth futuristic) when with a little effort (read: real world research) it could be a contemporary story? My initial answer, “Because I wanted it that way,” didn’t satisfy her. And rightly so. She brought up many valid points and made me explore aspects of the world that make my head hurt. But in a good way.

Even if the majority of the worldbuilding doesn’t hit the pages, it’s very important for a writer to understand the underpinnings of her universe. Why? For one, it adds depth. Bandying about futuristic or perceived futuristic terms and ideas isn’t enough. There has to be substance behind them. For another, because, as my mother says, G_d willing and the creek don’t rise, this story will get published at some point and someone, somewhere, will ask about a detail in the book. As the creator of that universe, I’d better have a more significant answer than “Um, I dunno” or “Because I wanted it that way.”

There are many blogs and sites about worldbuilding and such (just Google “worldbuilding” and you’ll get oodles of hits), so I won’t go into them here. Over at the Otherworld Diner blog, they’ve discussed this and are currently posting about characterization. Interesting insights and ideas, so go check it out.

Me? I’d better get back to work. With the help of Jody and my BFF Sharron, I’ve been exploring a strange, new world where no one has gone before. Not only is the setting richer (I hope), but the plot is deeper, twistier (I hope X 2). Now, I have to take notes from IM and phone conversations and incorporate them into the story. Not all of them, because I don’t want to write a travelogue of my world. I just want people to believe it exists long enough to then have to smack themselves on the head as a reminder that it doesn’t. And have to read the next book to get their “fix” : )


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Writing Unleashed

After a couple of weeks of walking our two dogs I've come to see them as two personalities that can be related to writing techniques.

When I walk the dogs, I keep them both leashed because one would hare off into the woods or lallygag behind while the other kept going in whatever direction we were headed, regardless if I were to twist an ankle or get mauled by a bear.

Holly, the Rottweiler/Golden Lab, is excited and anxious when we start on our walk. Her pace is brisk and she knows exactly where we're going. Along the way, however, she starts looking all over the place and sniffing everything. Every sound, every bit of detritus requires investigation . Her pace begins to waver and I periodically have to tug her leash to keep her moving in the right direction.

She's like me when, sometimes, as I'm writing a scene or chapter I'm distracted by ANYthing in my vicinity. (Oooh, something shiny!) It's not that I've become disinterested in the story. Usually my most distraction-prone periods are when I'm stuck on what to do next, on how to get to the next plot point. Some would say I should just write whatever I can to get words on the paper then fix it later. Others would tell me to skip that part, write the next bit I DO know, and go back later. But like Holly, I diddle along, making a little progress but not really keeping on pace. I need someone to tug on my leash. OK, get the bondage images out of your heads, people. Or was that just in my head...?

On the other hand, Bailey, the Border collie/Lab cross, is a steady as she goes pacer. We start off at a nice clip and she rarely deviates from her path. She'll look up when she hears something odd, but it doesn't throw her off. She is willing, if not happy, to do our 15 minutes out then turn around and head back. No questions asked. I could let her off her leash and she'd stay relatively close, but she wouldn't slow down.

I'm most like Bailey when I'm in that writing zone where I can crank out 14 or 16 pages in a day. Nothing except refilling my coffee or tea cup (and the resulting trips to the bathroom) distracts me. I'm in the groove, man, and nothing feels better. It's like a runner's high. OK, it'd be like a runner's high if I were a runner, but you get the idea.

When called for, I can be as focused as Bailey on my objective. Here's where we are, here's where we want to go. OK, let's move! But there's something to be said for Holly's technique. She's very aware of her surroundings and often picks up on things Bailey misses (or perhaps ignores because it's not in the Plan). I think she's more of a creative dog, our Holly, possibly imagining things in the woods are there so she can have an excuse to run and explore. Not a bad trait, just not always conducive to getting the job done.

I can't always channel Holly, or I'd never finish a book. But I don't channel Bailey near enough either. I mostly find myself in the middle ground between the two, giving over to my more creative side now and again as I bound into the woods, but then getting down to business and parking my butt in the chair to write when I have to. In the end, I get the job done, but who says I can't chase a squirrel now and again along the way?