So, last week I blogged about how my novel-writing process starts with months of thinking, and that usually the thinking starts with the main characters.

Once I have these two protagonists in my mind, even in very vague, shadowy form, what I start thinking of next are “moments”.  I’m not sure why, but this seems to be how I plot a book.  I don’t get big story trajectories coming to me in during all those long walks and hot showers, I get (what I’ve taken to calling) “moments”.  Little scenes with the potential for great humor, drama, angst, suspense….or heat. 8)  Some might call them the book’s turning points.

Anyway, these evolve in different ways.  Sometimes I just have a vague idea for a situation, and other times whole swaths of dialog just pop into my mind.  But they give me that “ooh, that would be soooo funny/sad/hot” feeling.   My gut tells me, I just HAVE to put that scene in the book.

I start to mentally refer to these “moments” by little one- or two-word tags.  For Goddess of the Hunt, for example, they might have been things like: orchard, wardrobe, letter, dinners, tears.  Right now, for this new book, I’m working with moments like: hay, party, piano, symmetry.  The moments are like a constellation of stars, and then the rest of the plot is a line connecting them.  By the time I finish the book, that line may change a dozen times–but the stars are pretty permanent.

Once I have this vague notion of what will happen, I start to research.  And I’ll blog about that next time.

10 comments to “How I Write a Book, Part 2: Thinking Some More”

  1. kelly krysten
    · October 14th, 2008 at 3:38 pm · Link

    Very interesting. I also start to see moments. It’s pretty fun once that starts happening. Makes me feel like my story has actual potential.
    Thanks for sharing, Tessa! Another great blog!:)

  2. Maggie Robinson
    · October 14th, 2008 at 4:02 pm · Link

    I keep going on “road trips” in my book—I see my couples somewhere else than where I first placed them. I have a few scenes in mind at the beginning, but mostly I just get in the carriage and drive off…

  3. Elyssa
    · October 14th, 2008 at 5:10 pm · Link

    Something “dings” and I start writing the “ding” that’s gotten me excited. I have no idea where I’m headed but try to enjoy the journey as I travel with them. So many processes, so many different ways… but at the end of the day, we all arrive at “the end.”

  4. Evangeline
    · October 14th, 2008 at 5:20 pm · Link

    I’m very curious about where you go after this, because so far, my writing process is very similar. However, I get stuck after jotting down the thoughts and ideas, and moments and scenes, as I have no idea how to get it to gel together. o.O

  5. Darcy Burke
    · October 14th, 2008 at 10:39 pm · Link

    Wow, so far we are writing twins, Tessa. Or at least we were until my WIP. This is the first book I started writing without those moments (great coinage, btw) in mind and it really affected my ability to get into it. A few moments have since come and it’s made all the difference. I didn’t actually realize that until I read this blog post, so thanks for the epiphany. Seriously. Whoa.

    On the edge of my seat to see what comes next in your process.

  6. terrio
    · October 15th, 2008 at 6:20 am · Link

    I think I have similar *moments* occur to me. I know several pertinent scenes going in, then I have to fill in the connecting ones which is where I get hung up. But then I start writing the connecting ones and a character will say or do something really cool I didn’t think of before, and even those scenes are fun.

    My problem is that I’m not writing things down enough. I really need to do that. I’m sure you’ve told us this before, but do you write all your scenes in order? Or do you write them as they come and connect them later?

  7. Santa
    · October 15th, 2008 at 7:06 pm · Link

    I start with places or surroundings. In my current WIP, ‘No Soup For You!’, I know what brings my H/H there and then I follow them. So far they seem to know where we’re headed. Hopefully, we won’t have to stop for directions anytime soon.

  8. Janga
    · October 16th, 2008 at 10:23 am · Link

    I like your constellation metaphor, Tessa. I too have all these “moments” that I turn into scenes. My problem is that I write the moments non-linearly as they come to me, and then I slog through the connecting-line scenes.

    I think of my WIP as a quilt. I have fun with the squares, my “moments”; the hard work starts when I have to stitch together the pieces to form the whole quilt.

  9. Tessa
    · October 16th, 2008 at 12:41 pm · Link

    Thanks for all these great comments! I love it! Leave it to a group of writers to come up with so many metaphors for the process. Road trips, quilts, constellations, “dings”… I always find it so interesting to hear other people describe their process.

    A couple of you asked whether I write the scenes in order. Well…sometimes. I do try to start at the beginning and write straight through (this is only after outlining, which I’ll blog about eventually), but inevitably I’ll hit a point where I’m just stuck. Either I’m not excited about writing that scene, or I just can’t get it to come out right – and that’s usually where I jump ahead to a “moment” scene to get my energy flowing again. It often helps me to fill in the connecting space, if I know what I’m working toward. I don’t know if I could write the whole book “quilt-fashion” as Janga so beautifully describes. As my CPs know, I have a serious allergy to squares. LOL. Meaning, any time I try to break up a story into a chart or post-its or an excel spreadsheet, I break out in hives. To me, narrative is linear, and I just can’t look at a bunch of squares and see a story. So for the most part, yes – I try to write in order, though I occasionally end up skipping one section of the line and coming back to it. That’s a habit I’ve developed mostly out of a desire to not waste time.

  10. Alyssa Goodnight
    · October 16th, 2008 at 4:01 pm · Link

    I’m very much the same way, with the characters and then the ‘moments’. Good to know it’s working for someone else. 😉

    Stop by my blog for your ‘I Love Your Blog’ award!