One way to write a novel…

October 25, 2007

10:30 PM. For the past couple of days, I have fled to rereading Dick Francis books – three of them. What am I fleeing?

Not so much fleeting as looking in another direction rather than plunging in. You made a breakthrough – a big one – in the novel when for the first time you began to think in terms of Angelo and the other participants rather than Angelo alone. Next you need to consider who they are and what their problems/opportunities are so that you will understand better who they are and how they have been brought together with Angelo for several purposes.

Yes, and avoid the temptation to mechanically set it out logically.

Exactly. So you see, goofing off has its purposes.

 

Saturday, November 03, 2007

12:29 PM

Dear Mr. Hemingway, or rather, Dear Papa,

I need help with plotting Babe in the Woods. I am more ready than I was to do the work of daily writing; can you help with the process of plotting?

Of course. It isn’t difficult if approached from a certain angle.

You somewhat misconstrue me in thinking that I merely set characters into a situation and see what they would do. That was Thomas Hudson’s advice to Roger, not my advice to the reader. Thomas Hudson gave him that advice because Roger had been misusing his talents and had lost his ability to formulate anything that wouldn’t sell to Hollywood. Also, remember, Thomas Hudson was a painter, not a writer, but the caveat on the advice is the same. You are not in danger of perverting your story for the sake of selling. Your danger is self-induced paralysis.

Consider what you know. You know the setting, the characters and the central issue you wish to illustrate. You know the various side-trails you would like to shed light on. What you lack is a logical progression of incidents of dramatic power that will embody and illustrate the issues. Yes?

Yes.

So the easy fix is to list the issues and the characters and fix them in relation to Angelo. You could easily do this with cards that you can physically arrange and rearrange as desired.

Could you do this for me? With me?

Or in fact help you eliminate the process? No, not to any good effect. What would that do but reinforce your fears that you can’t do this?

I have given you what you need. Do the arranging and re-arranging and then come back and we can talk some more, whenever you require. For this way you will see the logic and structural stability of it better than if it were handed to you. It will be yours, arising from your own experiences and beliefs. If you get stuck devising events or relating things one to the other in some form that gives dramatic power, we can talk.

This doesn’t feel very different from what I have tried to do to date.

On the other hand you haven’t tried it yet, so how can you know?

I’ll try anything once, I guess.

Be willing to try it as often as needed, and as long.

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