HANK: So as the year comes to a close and we're all faced with the possibilities on the new, a fellow Hoosier has a new take on how to face your next blank page.
(Here's a challenge, too. Suddenly, blogger is not letting me upload all of the lovely illustrations I pulled for this post, including Marta's book cover.
So imagine: a terrific cover. (Check her website to see it.) Gorgeous drawings of perspective, and some of our favorite paintings.
Imagine me frustrated, trying trying trying to download. Any solutions out there? Sigh. In the meantime, I've just inserted the descriptions of the paintings I chose.)
Okay, back to Marta Stephens.
Marta Stephens is a native of Argentina who has made Indiana her home since the age of four. Her friends say she's mild-mannered--but she turned to crime with the publication of the first in her Sam Harper Crime Mystery series, SILENCED CRY (2007).The second book in the Harper series, THE DEVIL CAN WAIT, was just published. (Lots of good info and all her awards on her website!)
She is a member of Sisters in Crime International, Sisters in Crime Speed City Indiana Chapter, and the Midwest Writer's Workshop.
And she's been wondering how writing imitates art! (imagine nice picture here)
Long before I decided to write fiction, my first love was art.
In school, one of our first lessons covered perspective. Interestingly enough, educator, art historian and author, James Elkins of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago defines linear perspective as "... a mathematical system for projecting the three-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional surface, such as paper or canvas."
(HANK: imagine technical drawing of perspective here, oh, so instructive!)
The parallel between this definition and the process of writing are striking and I can’t help but compare the two.
Whether I write or paint I begin with a white surface that begs to be filled. I start with an outline of the shapes (the synopsis), determine the perspective (decide whose point of view the story will be written in), and then decide the direction of the light and shadows (those wonderful subplots, twists, and turns that will help propel the story forward).
(HANK: oh, what a nice picture was supposed to be here! John Singer Sargent's white lady in Morocco. You know the one that's mostly shadows? Nice.)
Obviously there’s more to consider when we write, but all the same, writing is a layering process that includes; development, plotting, writing, editing, and letting the prose rest.
If you were to paint an object in the foreground of the canvas before the background was dry to the touch, you’d end up with a muddied mess. Writing is no different. It can’t be rushed.
(HANK: imagine Van Gogh here-- Starry Night. Oh! A link!)
Before I type the opening sentence to a new novel, I consider the crime first which for me is essential to the development of the plot. What happened, who did it, how, when, and why?
Next comes the cast of characters. Several of the characters in my series such as Homicide Detective Sam Harper and his partner Dave Mann appear in all of my books, however, the villains change and I usually introduce two or three other protagonists. I write back stories on each new character to understand his or her motivation and to decide how their paths will cross. Giving attention to the secondary characters is a critical step that leads toward the development of subplots.
( HANK (Seurat here-- Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte) )
Plotting offers a rough idea of the storyline; the order of the events and how I want the book to end. Details don't play a role at this point of the planning, all I'm trying to do is understand the big picture rather than the individual scenes and of course, all of this is apt to change as the story evolves.
HANK: Check outVelazquez' The Maids of Honor--what going on here?
Now comes the fun part, getting inside each character's head. I have to understand their motivations, what has led them to this point in their lives, how do the characters feel physically, mentally, spiritually, and what external factors are affecting their behavior or decisions. Without a clear understanding of these things, it's hard to know how the characters will act, interact, react, and cope with the situation they face. It’s equally important for me to have a feel for what good or bad things are going on outside of the characters' control that may affect them emotionally (i.e.: friends, family, job, relationships, weather, etc.).
(HANK: Imagine any Picasso you choose..)
Once I'm comfortable with the direction the manuscript is going in, I’ll type a chapter or two a day, let the writing rest for several days and then go back and work on the edits. I may go through this process six or seven times a chapter until I’m comfortable enough to move on. Eventually I’ll read the entire manuscript from start to finish and begin to tweak the prose and fine-tune the details. It’s at this point that I make a list of the chapters along with a brief 1-2 line description of what happens in each to help me keep an eye on the timeline.
(HANK: Nude Descending the Staircase. You know it.)
My method certainly doesn’t guarantee there won’t be rewrites. But regardless of the process used, there are no fast and easy solutions or magic wands to completing a novel. It's a never-ending process that takes patience, practice, and perseverance.
(HANK: the Mona Lisa?)
Tomorrow and Friday--another holiday gift--the inside scoop on query letters! Going to start the new year with a submission? Stop by here first--to chat with a person who can help...