Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The snowflake

On the Sisters in Crime listserv, I'm what's known as a pantser--I write by the seat of my pants. I start with a general idea of who the characters are, who is murdered, and who does it. And then I write, figuring inspiration will come as I write and the characters will reveal themselves to me. Well, this time, it isn't working, partly because I keep getting distracted by projects with more definite goals and partly because I got about 35,000 words, knew where it was going, and was completely stymied. Then someone on one of the lists I read mentioned the snowflake method, which is essentially starting with a basic shape and adding layers--it is the creation of a software engineer, who says it's akin to designing software.
Randy Ingermanson recommends several steps, and I decided to follow them carefully: write a one-sentence synopsis, then a one-paragraph. Then write a page about each of your major characters. That's where I am now, and it's been an amazing experience. I realized things about my characters that I never knew. I know lots of authors make lengthy outlines or notes about their characters, and now I can see why--what I'm finding out will profoundly affect the shape of the novel. I'm not rushing into this and dashing off descriptions of all the characters in one night--I do one or two at a time and take time to consider how they affect the development of the story. I'll go back to the novel with renewed interest--if a less speculative job doesn't intervene. I'm becoming a definite believer in some pre-work before  you write.
My family is already all abuzz with holiday plans, visit plans--we're going to have a lot of togetherness in the next couple of months, and I couldn't be happier about it. But oh those plans get complicated! Herding cats might be easier. Apparently I've missed a couple of emails, so I'm not up to the minute on the plans. I used to feel I had to be information central, and it startled me that the children were communicating with each other without going through me. Now they're apparently communicating with each other and leaving me out of the loop. Does age make you irrelevant?
I did have a senile moment this evening and was going to confess it on the blog--only now I can't remember what it was. Oh, dear.

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