July 15, 2010

Beginnings . . .

When I finish writing a novel, I don't rush into a new one. I can't.

I read once that best-selling novelist, Jodi Picoult, begins a new novel the minute she finishes writing her old one. Immediately. If I did that, the new novel would sound a whole lot like the old one.

I spend about a month (sometimes longer) emptying, letting the characters and their story go. I also get neurotic, convinced I'm doing nothing of importance with my life and must get a new career. Immediately. I drift. I get irritated with myself for "wasting" time and not writing. I'm cranky sometimes and joyous others. Mostly cranky. (It's no fun living with a writer.)

And then something happens. I start to notice things and think, now THAT would make a great character name. What a funny tidbit. I've got to include THAT in my next book.

Newbery Medal winner, Linda Sue Park, calls this period, where she's sure she must get a job teaching (not writing), RESETTING from one book to the next. I love that term because it's apt. I call this process FILLING THE WELL.

And once it begins, it's a lot of fun -- preparing the mind to begin an entirely new project, full of hope and potential.

If YOU'RE filling YOUR well, here are a few gems from the book: THE SECRET MIRACLE: THE NOVELIST'S HANDBOOK, edited by Daniel Alarcon, which incidentally, came out the same day my new novel did -- April 13, 2010.

"The best first chapters . . . should contain the DNA of the entire book in miniature." Jonathan Lethem

"You shouldn't write a check with your first chapter that your novel can't cash." Adam Mansbach

On the difference between writing a novel and a short story: "Novels are longer and have more shit in them." Stephen King

"I try to get a thousand new words every writing day, five days a week. Fifty-two weeks a year. Try." Michael Chabon

On moving forward when you are blocked:

"Go for more walks. Don't take a book. Throw my mind on its own resources." Stephen King

"I just write anyway, even knowing it's lousy. Ten pages of bad writing are more useful to me than giving up for the afternoon -- let alone the week, or the year." Daniel Handler

If you are beginning, I leave you with this simple, but brilliant quote by Lewis Carroll: "Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop."


Anonymous said...

Awesome insight into the creative mind Donna. it's something I'd hope you'd do. Really enjoyed it. It's applicable to other creative fields. I don't know how successful writers like yourself maintain their creativity, it's all like magic to me.


Wild About Words said...

Even though I've become more familiar with the process over the years, it absolutely still feels like magic. Inexplicable, glorious magic.

Anonymous said...

Not so inexplicable...