Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Writing Process Blogfest - How Do You Do It?

  Shalleem is very kindly hosting this blogfest, which is: How do you process your writing! Basically, are you a Pantser or Plotter? 


Less haste more speed, as the saying goes. Spot the mistake: above!

As this blogfest is all about exposure of how one sets about writing a novel – whether plotter or pantser - I’d say I’m neither. That said I do resort to copious notes in A4 notebook, for both contemporary and historical novels: nothing to do with plotting. Notes consist of character description, character profiling, and peripheral info: names of pets, horses, make of cars, how many etc.



When writing historical novels, re times/ dates, notable events, costumes, availability of fabrics, and even word usage etc., becomes essential to credibility of the novel’s period setting. Without this knowledge of the above a historical novel will read like a story set in whatever time-period you choose, but will it ring true to those who love that period and who love history? That's the guide I go by and judge by as a reader. That said, I don't want the book to read like a history lesson.


So oft I come across historical novels written not only in 21st century speech (gotten what she wanted – not got, or when required, begotten), the author also used 21st century slang (sheesh/huzzah etc), and committed the cardinal sin of not researching places (town/city). It happened in one novel, where Brighton featured. Whereas, in the period chosen, Brighton was known as Brighthelm. In another, Bath was mentioned (as Bath is today) not Bath as it was in Jane Austen’s time. There is every reason to check, check and double check historical fact. It can be the difference in acquiring a readership following or being ranked the author who writes crappy would-be historicals. Even with modern contemporary novels, element of research is necessary if what is happening in our novel is outside our own field of expertise. Why try and write about what we don’t know without first reading up on what we need to know!?


Now to inspiration for novels, which for me tends to be artwork. I love art galleries and can spend ages gazing at pictures. And, it’s at times like these a particular picture might cause me to linger, pondering who the person/people might be, and what might they have been thinking when posing for the portrait. Sometimes they are well known people, sometimes a figment of the artist’s imagination, so too the backdrop.

Take a quick look at these three images: they all inspired the writing of a novel.




With the first image I couldn’t stop feeling these two men were father and son on opposing sides in a war. Hence, a dream brought them alive and they became the inspiration for a historical set within the period of English Civil War. Chapters available to read on my writer profile blog.


In the second image, the girl conveyed (to me) sense of loss, sadness and longing! It became a modern contemporary romance. The name Tara seemed to spring from the image, her story and inevitable tragedy came to me in full cinematic glory during overnight dream, and I felt as compelled to get her story down in words as that of the two men on horseback in previous image.


The third image too drew my eye, my attention stuck on the polo player on the right hand side. Something about him spoke volumes: his boldness on the polo ground not in doubt. Yet I felt, despite obvious wealthy lifestyle, there was air of man alone and something missing in his life, all the while women throwing themselves at him. His story and that of a would-be mistress came to light in overnight dream, but it was not the would-be mistress who’d stolen his heart. It was a woman who walked with lions, yet one unkind gesture by him and she fled from the man known to his polo cronies as el Cavaliero. How in hell was he supposed to undo what he’d done? Well, I helped him out a little.

In effect I am not a pantster or plotter, as you can by now tell, because images inspire the conscious mind, the subconscious logs flickered thoughts, the subconscious then working overtime at night in revealing characters and their stories in perfect movie format. I am then left with painting those pictures in words. So, there you have it, that is my way of writing.

To read other participants writing process: go here.



24 comments:

Jennee said...

I'm a note person too. I can only plan so much because I want the story to take me somewhere when I write.

Summer Ross said...

Francine,

Technically you could say you were a plotter, you just do it in your head instead of on paper. :)

Jennifer Hoffine said...

I love historical stuff, but the language issue makes me shy away from writing one.

Shallee said...

Thanks for sharing your process! It sounds like you've got one that works well for you.

M Pax said...

I love the photos you've posted. You live in a great place. I use art as inspiration, too. And places and things I bump into. Great meeting you! :D

The Golden Eagle said...

It was great reading about your writing process!

L.A. Colvin said...

Thanks for the great post. It's good to be reminded of how much research you need to do BEFORE you start you story. Love the Pictures. Amazing place to live.

J.L. Campbell said...

I've been reading through the processes of some of the writers in today's blogfest and it has made very interesting reading. I gotta tell you, I have tons of respect for writers of historical fiction. When you can wing it with a little research for a regular romance, skimming the surface definitely doesn't cut it with historical fiction.

Christine Danek said...

You're right artwork can be great inspiration as well as just visiting a place you have never been before.
Research is key.
Have a great day!

Lynda Young said...

Yes, modern language can really pull a reader out of a historical novel. I love your process and attention to detail.

Karen Elizabeth Brown said...

I'm happy to meet you and thank you for visiting my blog.
The pictures you chose spoke volumes to me and I could see a totally different story in each. I appreciate you sharing your process for me to learn from. Inspiration!

Francine Howarth said...

Hi everybody,

Thanks ever so for dropping by to comment. And please, if I've missed any one of you do let me know. I'll drop by your blog tomorrow.

It's been a fun blogfest in many ways, and really interesting to see how you all set about getting your novels started and written. ;)

best
F

Melissa said...

I love how you use art to inspire your stories.
I've enjoyed reading about the different writing processes - thanks for sharing yours!

Elaine AM Smith said...

Your planning seems to be internalised but by total immersion in subject knowledge - cutting out the need for new research. Great to find a different way of thinking about the writing process.

Karen Akins said...

Love the art inspiration. I'm usually inspired by dreams.

E. Arroyo said...

Great post!
I also wanted to let you know I've nominated you for a Stylish Blogger Award. You can pick it up here http://chandarawrites.blogspot.com/2011/01/stylish-blogger-award.html

THanks for the great info!

SariBelle said...

Wow what a great way to get inspiration! I agree about the need for research when writing about something you don't know a whole heap about. I write fantasy in made up worlds so not so much research required.

L'Aussie said...

This is great Francine. I love the way you described your journey from art to story. Inspirational. We don't need labels. I guess you'd call me a pantser, but like you, a lot of plotting goes on in my head.

Denise :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Francine....you have a great process that works beautifully for you. I envy you for getting inspiration via dreams. I like the way art inspires your stories. Thanks for sharing

Francine Howarth said...

Hi ladies,

Lovely to see you all, and comments are really appreciated!

best
F

Kari Marie said...

I like that you are inspired by art. I get inspired by all sorts of things, but occasionally an image will strike my fancy and magically I'll have a story idea. Thanks for sharing today.

Liz Fichera said...

I agree with you completely on historical novels needing to be more about a story and less like a school history text. While I love a novel in its proper historical context, I need the story even more! Love those photos!

Trisha said...

I definitely make notes too - but not necessarily an entire plot structure. Things will occur to me in advance, i.e. ooooh it'd be cool if this happened, so then I note it down and have to get the story to that point. and yeah, along the way I come up with more and more plot points I want to incorporate.

Sometimes I just move my fingers on the keyboard and words come out on the screen. It happened with my first NaNo novel ever. Was a lot of fun writing that one!

Madeleine said...

Hiya, I'm back from my 'sick bed' now so catching up on the posts and fests. I love the sound of your researching and how you absorb yourself in the era and everything about it including the language and the fabrics and the etiquette. Sounds like you have completely the right approach to your genre. :O)