A rat on the roof of a story, trying to find the way in

3 ratWhat’s your writing process?

Someone asked me that in an interview recently, and my brain drifted to my annual writer retreat.  For several retreat years, my author friends and I drank coffee and wrote and talked in a house next door to that giant rat.  Other years, we’ve been in other spots.  We’ve had the chance–over many years–to watch a bunch of picture books and middle grade and YA novels take shape in a lot of interesting and sometimes confusing ways.  Some process-ey bits pop up over and over, year after year.  At some point along the line, mess happens.  Despair happens.  Plans happen and re-happen.

I doubt most writers would say they have A writing process.

Last weekend I was at an Ethiopia Culture and Heritage camp near Washington DC, and I was talking with someone who said she’s good at academic writing because she grasps structure but not creativity.  I told her that good fiction has to have a deep underlying structure–and I also said that finding the structure that works for any work of fiction isn’t simple and straightforward  but is mysterious to me and, in fact, can cause the aforementioned despair.

I’m thinking about all of this tonight because I’m starting a new novel.  Thanks to VCFA conversations, I’m trying to think hard about structure and scenes before I dig into the narrative–which is NOT my usual process at all.  But as authors talk and listen to each other (with or without the involvement of rats) we see new possibilities that might never have occurred to us.  Like rats on a roof, we wobble and totter and look out to sea, always hopeful that a vision will appear.

1 Comment

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One response to “A rat on the roof of a story, trying to find the way in

  1. For my current WIP, I struggled the most with structure. This was a new problem for me, too, because I usually just write from the beginning to the end. But this time, this story needed something different, and it was really hard to figure out exactly what!

    Each book is really its own thing; each one demands different problem-solving strategies!

    Good luck with your new novel, Jane! 🙂

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