Saturday, November 12, 2011

Carving a Path Through the Story Jungle

Every writer has her own way of writing a novel. One will plot out the story in meticulous detail before she writes the first word. Another starts by typing CHAPTER 1, then dives in and lets the words flow.

I envy them both.

When I start a new story, I feel like I've been dropped into the middle of a thick jungle with no compass, no clue where I am or how to get out. All I have is a small machete to hack my way through. The story is there all around me--the characters, the conflicts. I can feel them and I catch glimpses of them peeking through the growth. But when I first start, they're not clear. I know there's a strong logical path somewhere, too, but I can't see that clearly, either. All I can do is start swinging my blade and hope that things become clear sooner rather than later.

I'm deep in that jungle at the moment with book 7 of my Feral Warriors series. I won't tell you who this book is about (I'm saving that announcement for my personal blog on Dec. 1st). But I will tell you that the two main characters have revealed themselves to me pretty thoroughly, though I'm sure I'll continue to learn more about them as we travel the story together. But the story's path is another matter. I climbed one of the thicker trees to get a good view and I'm pretty sure I glimpsed it, way up ahead. It's a lovely path--wide and clear--at least it appears that way from here. It may look entirely different once I get there.

And that's the problem at the moment. How do I get there? I'm surrounded by dense, swampy jungle on all sides. As I pace, swinging my machete, and worrying that I won't find a way through, I remind myself over and over that this happens every time. Every story looks impenetrable at first. And I've ultimately conquered every one. More than a dozen of them, now.

I'll keep swinging, keep sweating it out. But the muse will come through, as she always does, and ultimately, together, we'll conquer this one, too.

9 comments:

Helen Lowe said...

Wonderful post, Pam--you have written quite a few more books than me so doubltess learned this long ago, but increasingly I feel that it's about trust: trusting ourself and the Muses and the story itsef that it will come together ... And it's amazing how it really does!

Roni said...

I honestly don't know how you people do it. I have a 'book in progress,' and although I have no trouble coming up with any scenes, or beginnings and endings, it's the words that get to me. Fussing over every single sentence and every single word can drive a person nuts. And yet, I can't seem to stop myself.

Jocelynn said...

Good luck on the story! I've read the first four in the series and so love them! I'm using the fifth and sixth books as reward for hacking my way through my own jungle at the moment.

Pamela Palmer said...

Thanks, Helen! It is ALL a matter of trust. If I panic at this stage, I'm sunk. I have to relax and trust in the muse. Once I figure out the path, I can panic all I want. In fact, I like to panic at that stage, at least a little bit. I run on adrenaline.

Pamela Palmer said...

Roni, I don't pay any attention to the words during the first draft, though that's sometimes easier said than done. That's what I use revisions for. I do find that with each book the words come more easily. Writing is very much a muscle that gets stronger with practice.

Pamela Palmer said...

Thanks, Jocelynn! I love that you're enjoying the Ferals! Good luck with the hacking. It would be nice, wouldn't it, if we could just hit each of our jungles with teams? Unfortunately, some battles we have to fight alone. With our muses. Always with the muse.

Brenda Hyde said...

Earlier in the week I ran across a blog where a writer in a lot of detail-- a lot--- told her way of plotting and it was mind boggling. Seriously, it was SO detailed that when I read it and looked at the pic of a story board she shared I thought my head would explode. LOL I was impressed by her method though. It's interesting to read what each writer does to plot stories out. I usually just dive in but have been learning to do light plotting then start writing.

I love the Feral series too, so I have faith you'll get your machete out and take care of that jungle. LOL

Amy Valentini said...

Hi Pamela, we really don't mind how you get there as long as you get there. Obviously, your method works because each book is better than the last, in my opinion anyway. I love the Ferals ... reading ECSTASY right now - about half way through and loving it - so exciting! I'll finally get DESIRE read as soon as I receive it ... finally won a copy on another blog - hope it's not forgotten. Anyway, Pamela, keep hacking away with that machete and we'll keep waiting in the clearing on the other side for the wonderful result. Can't wait to find out whose story comes next. [on pins and needles] xoxo

Sharon said...

oh, that's easy! *hands Pamela a chain saw* start hacking! ;)

okay, maybe it doesn't work that way , but it is the thought that counts, right? What if I also give you a smexy half-naked warrior to tote the chainsaw for you? No, that would be to distracting I am afraid...off to ponder other ideas...