Writing a Novel – Day 6

Dec 10 2012

Back after a two-day break. Family members, who are now aware of the strict writing discipline I am trying to enforce weekday mornings, asked if I was going to continue the program through the weekend. I indignantly replied that I deserved a break, but then I came across this from a writer via Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish.

The No. 1 question I get at readings is: “How many hours a day do you write?” I used to stumble on this question. I don’t write every day, but when I first started going on book tours I was afraid I’d be revealed as a true fraud if I admitted that. Sometimes I write for 20 minutes. Other times I don’t stop writing for six hours, falling over at the end like an emotional, wrung-out mess, simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated. Sometimes I go months without putting a word on the page.

One night, however, I was asked that question and the right answer just popped out, unknown to me before it found solidity on the air: “I write every waking minute,” I said. I meant, of course, that I am always writing in my head.

This, of course, freaked the insecure writer in me out! I certainly don’t write like that, though there are moments during the day when I do get inspired by something I read or see. And, as I mentioned before, walks with the dog do wonders in recharging the imagination. But I approach writing as a job that I do for a few hours each day, not as a raison d’etre. Perhaps every writer approaches their task in a different way. What’s yours?

Back to the book.

The problem with having been an editor for a while is that I am always looking to construct perfect sentences and have the logic and chronology of the story all figured out before I put pen to paper(or cursor to computer). My sense is that this is probably not the way I should be doing it, because it really slows me down.

For instance, one of my characters needs to have been very ill with a modern disease that requires intensive treatment in a hospital. What is this disease going to be? Why can’t it be fixed in a private clinic? The Freedom software that I’ve installed prevents me from doing the research right away, so I will have to use a place holder illness and simply move the plot along. I’m finding that difficult to do, though common sense tells me that it is not a big deal to rewrite if the real illness I use later turns out to have different complications. Or I could even create a disease out of whole cloth. But the urge to get it right the first time is very strong!

Another issue that bugged me was that I realized each of the first three paragraphs of my fourth chapter began with the word “When.” This is an absolute no-no for the editor brain, though I know that this can be easily changed during a redraft. I tried to let it go, but it nagged me so much that I ended up fixing it before I moved on, though there were plot ideas that were fizzing in my brain, waiting to be released.

Today’s target: Finish Chapter 4. When I began writing this chapter, it was only supposed to be a little background to where the heroine came from, but a new character forced himself in and demanded to be fleshed out. I remember an interview given by Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni where she said that when she begins writing she feels a god-like spirit channeling through her, putting words on the page. (I’m paraphrasing here, sorry Chitra). I am beginning to understand what she means, though my muse appears to be far less benign!

More tomorrow.

If you have some tips to share or experiences of your own, please leave them here in the comments instead of FB so I can keep a record.

3 thoughts on “Writing a Novel – Day 6

  1. Jeanne Fredriksen

    If a character muscles his or her way into the story, stand aside and let it happen.

    Some people have the luxury of being able to write 8 hours a day. The rest of us? As much as we can when we can and as we can.

    And oh, yeah, don’t let your inner editor bother you too much just yet. Tell her to go read a book and you’ll call her when she’s needed. 😀

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  2. Jeanne Fredriksen

    I’m with you, Malini! I’m enjoying the blog entries tremendously, and for me, it’s a nice reminder that someone else is writing a novel.

    So Vidya, thank you for this blog. It’s helping me stay focused, too. And now … back to work while I’m at my writers’ work group!

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