Hey guys, it’s Ella here. When RB told me she’d finished the first draft of her new book, after I picked my jaw up off of the floor (and finished my tantrum) I asked her if she would do a post about how she works. Since I had specific questions she let me interview her, which was awesome, but the post got really long so we broke it up into three separate posts. Here’s the first part of the interview. We’ll put up the next tomorrow and the third the day after. Enjoy!
Ella: So you finished another book. (Thunks head against table.) How are you doing this? How? How? How?
Ella: Okay, specifically. How well do you know your story before you start writing it? Do you have the entire thing plotted out? Is it just in your head, or do you write to an outline? Do you collage first? Do you have soundtracks? As I’m writing, I’m finding I have to stop and figure out things like what character’s houses and wardrobes and eating habits are like. Do you know those things before you start? Are those things important for your writing process?
RB: Before I sit down to write the first word I know all the major plot points of the story and most of the time I know how the characters will get from one to the other. I write everything down. Keeping it all in my head would only end in disaster. For Callie’s Story I had plot note cards and loose leaf paper with the plot written in sequence. During the pre-writing stage of any novel, whenever anything plot related comes to me—Oooh, I can do this. Yes, I want to do that.—I write it down. Sometimes the points coincide and other times not so much. I don’t worry about it during this phase. When I’m done, I lay everything out and then put in order from beginning to end. Not each point makes it in the story. When I was finished with Callie’s story, I still had about five plot points that I didn’t use because as the story unfolded Callie and her friends took me to places I didn’t plan on and those points didn’t jive anymore. I’ve learned over the years to let this happen. To not try and force the points to work.
I did my first collage with Callie’s Story. I had so much fun with it. In the beginning, I thought collaging was just a waste of time. But whenever I was stuck during the writing phase, the collage would help bring the main story’s point back in focus.
I have a Callie soundtrack. This is essential for me now. I listened to it while I was writing about ninety percent of the time. I also found that when I was stuck, it was normally because I wasn’t listening to the soundtrack. When I turned it on the words would slowly start to flow again.
I do a lot more character set up than I do plot set up. I started pre-writing Callie’s Story in September 2012. I began with the characters. I wanted to know everything. If clothes were important to the character, then I made sure to have pictures of their wardrobe and names of designers (because I am not, in any shape or form, a fashionista). I knew what type of car everyone drove. I know where they live. I love Google earth for this. I use GE to plot out the main character’s house in relation to her friends, love interests, school, the town. Everything! I need the visual so when I start writing I can see it in my head. I have collected character sheets/questions over the years from many different writing sites and authors. When I’m finished pre-writing the characters I need to be able to see, and hear, them clearly. I need to know how they will respond in any given situation. They need to be alive for me so I can make them alive for my readers.
Ella: It sounds goofy, but I’m actually afraid to try to sit down and do that much plotting, although it would make my life easier. It’s like the story is a wild beast lurking in my head and if I poke at it too much it might run away. Did you ever feel like that? Have you ever had a problem with losing the magic of the story because you plotted too much?
RB: No, that’s never happened to me. When I’m done pre-writing, I’m even more excited to get writing. To see it all down on paper. I don’t know everything that will happen in the story and I can’t wait to see where the characters take me. This is why the character pre-writing is so important for me and why I can never learn too much about them. If I know my characters, I can trust them to lead me in the right direction for the story. And I can relax about writing a story with only knowing about seventy-five percent of the plot. I’m definitely a plotter and not a panster. 😉
Ella: You’ve talked about being able to hear your character’s voices. Is that, um, a metaphor? Because I’ve heard other authors talk about that, and I totally don’t get that. What is that like? How much does that contribute to the overall story? Because I get where that would give you the character, but does it give you the plot, too? And how much of the character does that give you? Oh, and how long has that been going on? Was there a head injury involved?
RB: Ha. No, no head injury. And it all started with Fallen Redemption. The more character pre-writing I did with FR, the more I heard those characters speaking to me. When I got stuck during this phase, I went to a quiet place, pulled out my laptop or notebook and pencil, and asked the characters my questions. Crazy enough, the answers would come. For instance, in Callie’s story, I wanted to know more about her powers. I was stuck on how it would all come together. On how this power affected her life and made her the way she was. So I sat in my writing room with a notebook and pencil and asked: When did it all start? How does it affect your life now? And instantly the answers came to me. I didn’t hear a girly, teenage voice in my head, only my own. But to me, that was my character speaking. I had no idea where the answer came from. I had tried to find it before using other methods, but only when I asked her directly, as if she were a real person, as if she was in the room with me, did I get what I needed.
The stronger a character’s voice is, the more in-depth pre-writing I’ve completed. Their voices are what drive my story. And in a way, the plot as well. I may have my note cards and know where I want the story to go, but sometimes that’s not where my characters want to take me. I fought the voices in the past and those stories aren’t published. I’ve learned to let go and follow them when they suggest another path. And without the voices, without all the character pre-writing so I could make them alive, my story would be flat.
And that’s where we’re ending it for today, because we know you have lives, too. Part 2 tomorrow–see you then!