|Bas relief from Mamallapuram, India|
When we first moved to Colorado, we rented a tiny studio apartment while we went house-hunting. One evening, our landlords invited us up for a glass of wine and some conversation. She is a sculptor who works primarily in stone. She mentioned that it was interesting that we were both artists.
Frankly, I'd never considered myself an artist, but we discussed our creative processes. There's an old saying that in order to carve a block of stone into an elephant, you simply chip away everything that doesn't look like an elephant. In writing, you keep adding until you get the elephant.
If writing were like sculpting, it would mean being able to change what comes next, but not what came before. Scary. Really scary. I mean, I know authors who sell on synopsis, but when they write the book, it's all different. As long as it's good, there's usually no problem.
When the sculptor asked how I created a book, what my preparation process was, did I outline the plot, or develop the characters, I answered that I knew very little when I first started writing.
She said she worked the same way. She might have a very simple sketch—no more than a line drawing, when she started, and a vague idea of the finished product, but the actual sculpture was dictated by the stone. She starts working and lets the stone show her the way.
That sounds very much like my own writing style. I joked about how my characters were always surprising me, and that the discovery was as much fun as the final product. On that, we were in total agreement.
But imagine if you started writing your book and couldn't go back to fix things. Once you chip away that piece of marble, it's gone and you can't reattach it to the sculpture. I don't think there is such a thing as a 'first draft' for her. Some artists might make models first, using a different, "less valuable" kind of medium, but she likes to get right to it.
I remember going to a RWA chapter meeting, and as we shared where we were with our writing since the last meeting, one woman said, "I'm on Chapter 30 and have only 5 chapters left to go." I was flabbergasted. How did she know what was going to go into each chapter, and that much in advance? How did she know her book was going to be 35 chapters long? My last book ended up going on for about 4 chapters more after I was writing what I thought would be the final chapter. And my editor asked me to expand. Glad I wasn't a sculptor!
What's your writing style? Discover as you go? Outline? Do you know your entire book's structure, including how many chapters, before you start?
|Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.|