28 December 2010

How do you write?

Over my Christmas vacation I read John Irving's 2009 novel Last Night in Twisted River. It shows the development of a novelist and the writing process in that it is a story within a story. Interestingly, the career of the novelist in the book is similar to Irving's career. As a writer myself I found Irving's Afterward particularly fascinating. He admits he's gotten some flack over the years, and says of one conversation with a reader,
I was a dinosaur--or worse, a reactionary. ...I had told her a story. But that's what I do. And if you're telling a story --especially to illustrate a point--you'd better know what happens in the story before you start.
This is good advice. :)

Amazingly, Irving starts his works at the end!
Endings not only matter to me; endings are where I begin a novel or a screenplay. If I don't know the ending, I can't begin--and I don't mean that I need to know only what happens. I need to know the tone of voice, and the last sentence (or sentences). I write not only to a moment in time, but to a sound--a feeling. I have to know what that feeeling is, or I won't start.

From the last sentence, I work my way back to where the story begins. This constitutes a kind of road map in reverse. That process--of working my way backward through the plot, from the last sentence to the first--usually takes a year or eighteen months, sometimes longer. But for twelve novels now, the last sentence has always come first. And those last sentences have never changed in the process--not even the punctuation.


How do you write?


Kieron Heath said...

I have to think in images and imagine the whole book as though it was a movie. I tend find phrases float around me and situations just tend to spring from there. I prefer my books to have plot landmarks I need to meander the story to. That seems to keep me going.

lesleylsmith said...

Interesting, Kieron!
Thanks for sharing. :)

Betsy Dornbusch said...

Novels I write a synopsis and work from it. They give me lots of room to stretch my wings. For short stories I tend to plot linearly (literally, on a line) with jotted notes and work from there. And for my novellas I tend to write short synopses for each chapter.

lesleylsmith said...

Interesting, Betsy, that each different form has a different method! :)

Kieron Heath said...

I haven't written a short story for a few years even though I used to write them regularly. Perhaps I should give one a go and see what structure seems to work for me. And then submit to Electric Spec.


Vedran said...

I like your blog! I want to invite you to the crazy funny stuff on the page crazyfunnystuff.net to watch someone else crazy and funny things.
If you want we can be partners and your link may be available on my site and thus can obtain more traffic itself

Be sure to visit the page http://www.crazyfunnystuff.net/ sure you will find old for themselves because it has all the funny pictures, crazy videos, comic stuff ... fun to spare
Visit us and you will pogdijeĊĦiti

Have fun!