This is my IWSG post. Thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh and his team this month for all the work they put into this so very useful meme. Click here to read more posts...
Some authors claim that there are two phases in the book-writing journey--(i) 'Hunting and Gathering' (my term) and then (ii) Building (my term), meaning Structuring. In previous novel-writing attempts, I've spent too little time Hunting and Gathering and too much time developing structure and shuffling deck chairs that would later get blown away in a cyclone of editing. Pure waste of time.
I came across this post by the wonderful Mary Carroll Moore, - artist, author, teacher. She says it's very helpful to know what phase you are currently in, so you are using the appropriate tools. Maybe it'll even stop you from getting discouraged or overwhelmed. Wouldn't that be nice?
Hunting and Gathering Phase - the clues
- You have your story idea, but maybe you still feel unsure about it.
- You are enjoying exploring facets of ideas, perhaps freewriting but you're not ready to edit or structure yet.
- You have lots more research or interviews to do (maybe you haven't even started this). You need to dig deep into the characters you want to people your book with--profile? backstory for each? character arc? These may change a lot during this stage.
- Brainstorming ideas--this can be the fun part! Let your imagination soar! It is very helpful to brainstorm with a writing group or writing friends. Many brains are better than one!
The Hunting and Gathering phase keeps on happening throughout the book journey. As Moore says: 'We cycle in and out of it, but we always start with it: an idea, a nudge to write, a character that won't leave us alone, a compelling body of information we want to share, an experience that changed our lives.'
The Three Main Components of Hunting and Gathering (with thanks to Moore):
- Inner and outer story -Inner story is the meaning, the why. Outer story is the event or what's happening, where, with whom, when. Most writers naturally excel in one of these. This "outer story" information is crucial, but it's only half the picture. Inner story counts equally-the meaning of the plot (what changes because of what happens) and the meaning of the research (what does it mean to your reader).
- Writing in islands (instead of by outline or chronology). Islands are single scenes, or snippets of information, or a setting description, or a character sketch. They do not necessarily have a beginning, middle, and end. Writing teachers have discovered that writers who work in islands rather than via an outline often include the inner story more readily. This is because islands are not gathered in a linear fashion. They appear in random bits. I'm finding this a great way to 'discover' my story.
- Brainstorming list. A primary Hunting and Gathering phase tool. Keeping a brainstorming list is the a very effective way to counteract writer's block-you always have something to write about. And if you can free yourself from having to write your book in sequence, or chronology, islands can be tackled in any order.
|Is this a keeper?|
After you are satisfied with your Hunting and Gathering, you are then ready to start Building (structuring your novel). I'm looking forward to this! But I'm so enjoying Hunting and Gathering and writing in islands at the present. I think my writerly advice would be: take your time! What's the hurry?
- How about you? What stage is your writing at? Have you got any pearls of great price to add?
- If you don't have Mary Carroll Moore on your blogroll, I highly recommend her great writing advice. She also offers online courses.