Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ask the Authors: Tuesday

Welcome back to “ask the authors week.” This week we will pose five questions to our contributors, and you’ll find their varied answers to a single question each day.
If you have questions you’d like us to ask during a future “Ask the Authors” week, send it to CharisConnection@gmail.com. As always, thanks for joining us!

What is the most difficult part of the novel- writing process for you . . . and why?

Writing the proposal. I tend to get very excited about my ideas, and I want to say, “Trust me, this is going to be good.” If I’m not careful, I can distill my excitement by writing a proposal that’s going to sit and grow cold for several months. I’d rather write the book. –Angela Hunt

Plotting. So after a few years I finally learned to let my characters do the plotting. I just go along for the ride. -BJ Hoff

Getting to know my characters, their pasts, their hurts. Once I know them as well as I know myself, then I will always understand their motivations and I won't try to force them to do something out of character just because my story needs them to do it. -- Robin Lee Hatcher

Getting that first draft on the page. As for why, I'd love it if someone could explain it to me. I enjoy writing when I'm doing it, but it's murder to make myself sit in the chair and put my fingers on the keyboard. I'm thinking about the story all the time, but actually writing that first draft...Oy! What a pain! –Karen Ball

Honestly, I think it's ALL hard! You can never do enough research, enough plotting, enough character development in advance, nor enough self-editing when you finish the manuscript. Perhaps the very hardest part is the first chapter, the first scene...okay, the first paragraph. So I tell myself, "This is not the final draft, you can throw it all out," and that seems to help me get off high center and start writing. --Liz Curtis Higgs

For me it's the middle of the book. It's usually Chapters 15-20. You have to keep the pace going, but you've already introduced the characters, the plots, etc. and it's not time to build to the ending yet. –Rene Gutteridge

The most difficult part for me is the first draft. It's creating a world, and characters, and a story out of nothing. Later, when I rewrite, it's much easier, just as it's easier for someone to criticize what you've done instead of trying to write their own story. Meow. --Hannah Alexander

The editing process. It's vital and necessary, of course. But the fun is in the initial creation. You're falling in love with the story and the characters. Then the marriage begins, and you realize your manuscript has bad breath in the morning, and gets cranky, and you have problems you have to work out. Things always get better when you do, but it can be unpleasant at the time. -- James Scott Bell

The most difficult is getting a new book ready to send to the publisher. Each writer faces different challenges, but for me until a book is edited to the best of my and others knowledge, I’m in a perpetual sweat. --Lori Copeland

The first draft. I'm trying to create a pulse out of a glob of imaginary hope.—Patricia Hickman

Facing the blank page, because there’s nothing there. Doing the research is fascinating, because I love to learn. Rewriting is soul-satisfying, because there’s something there that I can craft into a better piece of literature. The hardest work is creating “something from nothing,” so to speak-- pulling that first draft out of my mind and heart and getting it dressed in words. –Ann Tatlock

Definitely the first draft. The blank screen is a very scary thing for me. Not sure why. I’m always afraid I don’t really have enough material for a novel, that my plot isn’t clever enough, that my characters aren’t likable enough, that my theme has been done a gazillion times. I LIVE for rewrite! - Deborah Raney

Coming up with a story idea and building a plot around it is the hardest part. With every other stage of the process there is a something to work from (the rough draft is based on the synopsis or outline, revisions are based on the rough draft) but trying to put a story together where nothing yet exists means there is not yet a framework within which to think. The mind wants rules to make decisions, yet the rules don't exist because the story doesn't yet exist. There are no characters yet to let you think, "She wouldn't go along with that." No setting yet to let you think, "I can see it happening here." It's just chasing through a total whiteness, looking for something one can cling to without any way of knowing if a thing is WORTH the clinging; that's the hard part. This is one reason I begin with theme. You don't need characters or plot or setting to know if a certain theme is worth the effort, and it gives you some basis for evaluating everything else as it emerges from the fog.

I also think some of the problem is a matter of self confidence. At a certain moment a writer must simply think, "This, because I said so." Yet who am I to say it? None of us are any good in our own minds. We delude ourselves at certain moments in the process, thinking we have something worth the telling after all, but when there's nothing yet to tell how can such delusions be maintained? Nowadays I force myself to remember I've done it a few times before, so apparently I know how. I force myself to trust that. But before I had any work to fall back on that way, I must have been an egomaniac to think I could say anything worth saying, and say it in a worthwhile way. --Athol Dickson


At 8:30 AM, Blogger Carol Umberger said...

As I sit amidst my self-made garbage pile of an unfinished first draft, I smile and nod my head in amazement. I'm not alone. Others face the same fears and apprehensions and manage to create wonderful books. Thank you for reminding of that. I would rather have my fingernails removed one at a time than write first draft but since no one has offered to pull them for me and I'm too much of a coward to do it to myself, I guess I'll try writing instead. :) I'll be thinking of all of you as I do. Well, except for JSB. :)

At 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the things I like best about this site is the openness that shows the diversity among Christian writers. It reminds me of a big family sitting down to dinner. Each has different preferences as to favorite foods, but everyone enjoys each other's company.

You write many different kinds of fiction, and you write in many different ways, but there never seems to be a spirit of competition among you. You seem to have a common goal, and it's never to elevate yourselves.

The insights you share from your wealth of knowledge and experience are always extremely helpful. Thanks for being here for the rest of us.

At 4:47 AM, Blogger Camy Tang said...

You know, I thought for years that the first draft was the hardest, like many of the authors have said.

But after just receiving (and finishing) my first official editorial memo (substantive edit), I have to agree with JSB, the editing is the most painful part for me.

It's messy. Sharon Hinck put it really well--you pull a thread and everything just unravels. I like nice, organized spreadsheets that can be moved around easily. Ah, my anal side showing.

So yeah, editing is most difficult for me. The writing is just way more fun.



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