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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Creative Process: Your Glimpse Into a WIP




Okay, I’ll admit when I decided to let you all in on my creative process, my first thought was “What creative process?” See, I considered myself a pantser. You know some one who is always writing by the seat of their pants. Amazing isn’t it, since most of my stuff appears seamless?

See, years ago, I planned everything to the nth detail. And with good reason too. When you do sci-fi or fantasy, those things need to be planned out. It’s one of the reasons that the Crusin’ project is going so slow. When I write those type of stories, I usually write a section and then make sure what I did was correct for the world I had built. And that takes time. There are some stories that I’ve let languish for months just working out the right scenario in my head. If it doesn’t work for me, it certainly won’t work for you.

Now the real reason I can be a pantser today is because I have internalized most of what I used to write down. And somehow, I manage to keep all the facts straight. So basically, I play these little head games with myself whenever I’m at the computer. Sometimes I do write the answers down on a page which I then save to my idea folder or particular story folder. A lot of the times if the story is contemporary I don’t need to do that at all any more.

So just what fuels my creative process you might ask. It can be a lot of things. Some times it people, some times it’s a picture and some times it’s a title. So let’s start at the beginning with a picture this time and I’ll take you through the whole process. And yes, you are seeing the beginnings of what is known as a work-in-progress or a WIP. I always have about ten projects going at any one time because I tend to get bored easily. With all those projects I am never bored.

First, let’s look at this picture that I posted at the top. Intriguing, isn’t it? I love the colors and I just love her stance. And the first time I saw it, I laughed my ass off. Once the humor aspect was done, I started to look at it carefully. Okay…I had this wonderful picture…which brought some very naughty thoughts to mind. Now, just how was I going to use those thoughts?

I stared at it for a few minutes and came up with the title and or tag line “Where’s My Underwear Anyway?” And then I came up with another one “My Underwear is Missing – Do You Have It?” And finally, “Explain to Me Again Why You Have My Underwear?”

I really like, “Where’s My Underwear Anyway?” and decide that’s what I’m going to keep as the title of this work-in-progress. You might ask me how I determine the length of this new venture and I will honestly have to tell you that I won’t know until it’s done. That’s another joy about being a pantser. The stories call me and I answer their call. They tell me how long they are going to be and who the characters are. I follow that train of thinking and work accordingly. Most of the time I have a general word count in mind but it is no way carved in stone.

So, now I have a title and a cover picture. Thank goodness I always put together what I call concept art that goes in with a manuscript. Basically, I put something together and then let my publisher know I want either that cover or something very much like it. Yeah, my creative juices don’t just flow in the writing arena. You’ll see my concept of the cover at the end of this column.

Okay, the next thing I think about is the first line. The first line in any story is the hook. One of the best writing talks I ever went to was called ‘Hook, Line and Sinker’ and it was about the importance of having a great first line. I have given many a talk on the importance of this myself. Once I had the concept down myself, I quickly won a few first line contests put on by the various publishing houses in the late ‘90s. Unfortunately, a great first line can’t be the only thing your story has going for it.

So what am I thinking now in regards to the first line? First, I have to set the scene. We have this woman, who doesn’t know where her underwear is obviously…so who would she be talking to about this? Her girl friends more than likely, right? You betcha! I can see them sitting around a table in a quiet section of the local bar/pub discussing the turn of events. Here’s what I see for that first line and the beginning of this quirky story.

“So…you really don’t know where your underwear might be?”

I stared at my best friend across the table. It sounded so much better when I really wasn’t thinking about it. “Do you have to be so loud?” I put my head in my hands and peered through my fingers at Monica, who’s been my best friend since grade school.

“It’s not my fault that you have the mother of all hangovers. Again. How many times have I told you to stay away from the tequila?” She sighed and sipped on her hot tea. “We’re in Scotland. You’re supposed to be drinking whiskey.”

“I know, I know. It’s to-kill-ya. But please, I gotta figure out where my underwear is.” I sent her my best ‘you have to help me’ look.

“I’ll try but this is just way too funny.” She looked around the almost empty pub. “Just think…this place was the scene of an…underwear napping.” She laughed then winked at me.

“This really isn’t funny, you know.” I lay my head down on my hands. Just thinking about it was making me queasy.

“You’re on vacation, why are you so worried?” She shrugged her shoulders in that typical Monica way.

I looked up at her and groaned. “It’s a working vacation. I’m a lawyer for heaven sakes. I’m supposed to be a model citizen.” I really wished I could do more than just look at her with distain. What I really wanted to do was wring her neck and get that smug expression off her face. “And I’m here with bunch of damn lawyers!” My voice rose and my head immediately began throbbing like a percussion band. I really needed to watch that, I thought as rubbed my forehead.

Monica sat back in her chair and sipped her tea daintily once again. “You really need to get into this Scottish tea. It’ll do wonders for that aching head.”

I grimaced and wished she hadn’t reminded me. My law firm was an international company and when we found out an important conference on international law was being held in Edinburgh, Scotland, we jumped on the chance. Monica and I had toured the continent right out of law school but of all the places we went to, Scotland was our favorite. We had accrued plenty of vacation time and it only took a little time to convince our employers that it would be in their best interest to let us go to this particular conference.

“Would you just quit it?” I mumbled into the table.

“What was that? You don’t remember any of it?”

I looked up with what I hoped was the most ill and forlorn look I could give her. “I wish you’d just stop it.”

She pursed her lips before sitting her tea back on the table. “You know you really shouldn’t be so worried.”

“Why not? Half the lawyers here have already tried to jump my bones and the other half wished they had tried. How do you get away with them not slobbering all over you? And you know how I get when I ‘m drinking tequila.”

She let out a long, low whistle. “Hon, I’m not the all American blonde woman here. And you betcha, I totally understand better than anyone just how you are when you drink that poison. But really, you don’t need to worry as I know who has them.”

This was a shining spot in an otherwise dim day. “You do? Who?”

She smiled at me then with that all knowing bitch smile she uses when she knows she has the superior position. “Yeah, I do.” Monica paused for a minute for effect. If nothing else the woman was dramatic and very effective in the courtroom.. “The stud has them.”

I let my head thump back down on the table. This was worse than I thought.

Not bad for a first try. And yeah, I put this together just for this column. I might tweak it a little but it’s pretty good right out of the chute. I read it to my husband who was standing over me, even he got a kick out of it and that’s pretty hard to do. I’ve decided to do something so totally different with this story that might warrant me passing it off to an agent. We’ll see.

Next time we’ll talk about what I do next in the process. I promise not to leave you hanging too long! Later…and have a great week.

Lynn

5 comments:

AJ Llewellyn said...

Hi Lynn,
Thank you for the thought-provoking post. I write Commando myself :)

Lynn Crain said...

Thanks, AJ!

I love to write this way as I feel more freedom with the creative process.

Lynn

AP Miller said...

Now that's the right way to write first person...that was excellent AJ.

I am a panster and wouldn't have it any other way. My characters lead me where they want to go. OTOH, Andrew is the plotter.

hugs

Lynn Crain said...

I so agree with that. AJ is an inspiration! LOL!

There are times I plan and others when I don't. Fantasy/Futuristic I usually have to so I won't forget the details. My way of planning is to work out all the characters, the basic plot line and make a bible. The bible is usually the only thing I will refer to more than once.

Everything else, I pants it because that's the only way to go!

Lynn

Stephani Hecht said...

I'll fess up to being a total pantser. Every time I try to write an outline first I never follow it and I realized it was just a big waste of my time.

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