Monday, January 14, 2013

A New Year, A New Work

For 2013, we at Novel Matters are busy lining up interviews and guest posts with some amazing authors and industry professionals. We're starting off proud with Chris Fabry, whose gritty, suspenseful Western romance, Borders of the Heart, was released just last September. He'll visit us on January 28, so there's still time to read the book before his interview!

Carpe Annum! I love our theme for 2013. That's what the 6 of us plan to do, corporately and individually in the coming year, and I expect you do too. In my case I'm moving forward with indie publishing, and anticipate releasing my next novel on my birthday, July 1st. Happy birthday to me! I'm working hard at promoting Unraveled, and will soon re-release Every Good & Perfect Gift and Lying on Sunday, in both print and Kindle format. Yay!

As many of you can attest, there are a number of highlights in the life of an author: finishing a novel, signing that first contract, holding your published book in your hands, hearing from readers -- which really is one of the best things about being published. But another "best" for me is beginning a new manuscript. It's a thrill all its own, and holds so much promise. I can imagine Harper Lee sitting down to begin Mockingbird, creating one of the most enduring novels in literature, as told by one of the most endearing characters in literature, Scout Finch. I wonder how much Harper Lee knew about her story when she wrote that first paragraph. She could not possibly have imagined the lasting impact it would have on the world around her. She not only seized the year, she seized the ages. Wow. There's no end to the author studios our imaginations could take us to, envisioning ourselves looking over their shoulders as they penned, "Call me Ishmael." "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ..."

As this new year begins, I've just begun work on a new manuscript. In December, I posted the prologue I wrote several months ago, but the prologue was as far as I'd gotten with the story. Yesterday I began Chapter 1. I'm so excited to be back at work. Since I began writing in the mid-80s I've had a novel in the works, without exception. Until 2012. I completed my last novel early in the year, and except for that prologue, I didn't write another word. I've said this before, I know, but usually by the time I'm 2/3 of the way through one manuscript, ideas for the next one are pounding at my door. I begin making a file for the new work as scenes present themselves and characters begin to take form. Dialogue is loud in my ears. I give myself a week or two after finishing one manuscript, then I'm right back at work on the next.

But there was much about 2012 that sapped my energy, both physically and mentally. (Do you sense how glad I am that 2012 is over?) I had ideas for two possible novels, but I couldn't make up my mind which way to go, and couldn't get traction on either one. I dabbled in plot and character development, going back and forth between the two, but nothing jelled. Then, in November, my daughter Mindy and I were making our every-7-week, hour-long trek to Folsom, where we get our hair done, when I brought up my dilemma. Mindy knew about my two possibilities, but as we talked about them, one of the ideas really began to click with me -- especially when Mindy threw out a terrific idea for a cover based on my working title. That settled it.

An odd way to decide on a novel to write? Perhaps. But simply put, it tipped the scales in favor of one topic over the other. And it gave me the enthusiasm that had been lacking. So for the past few weeks I've been expanding on plot ideas and character development, which is by far my favorite part of this early process. I love looking for the perfect names for my characters, and as I'm sure you've found, there are names that are exactly right for the people we create. I seldom hit on the right name, right off the bat. Instead, I try out a name, maybe even begin the writing with the wrong name, which will nag me until I find the right one. When I find the right first name, I search for the surname that fits. Then I go searching for the face to fit the name. Almost always, that's the point when a character comes to life for me.

But in the case of my current protagonist, her name came to me first, late one night when I was unable to sleep because of illness. It was as if she were suddenly there with me on the couch, introducing herself. A 12-year-old girl with an unusual name. And I said in a whisper, "What's your story?" And she began to tell me. Which was a bit unusual, because she doesn't speak.

Oh yes, there's nothing like beginning to write a new novel, to begin acquainting yourself with the characters who populate your fictional world; to discover the secrets they keep -- or try to; or to follow blindly along, not sure in the beginning what you'll uncover. It's as stimulating for me to uncover the plot of the books I write as it is the books I read. In both cases, there's always such great anticipation.

What about you? What's your favorite thing about starting a novel, as a reader and/or an author? And how do you plan to seize the year in 2013?

11 comments:

Megan Sayer said...

Hehe!! I LOVE it here! There just aren't enough places in life where you can have conversations about novel writing with people who understand. Thanks Sharon!!

I was really intrigued when you said about getting the character's names wrong, because that's exactly what happened to me recently. I've been working on this story for a few months, and I knew the character pretty well (or at least I thought I did), but all the while it niggled me that his name was wrong. I ignored that niggling feeling for quite a while, thinking it didn't matter that much, but one day while I was driving I got to thinking about the story and what his name SHOULD be, and it came to me - and the fact that he'd been anglicising his name and was really Italian, and...and...suddenly this whole other side of the story was revealed, just by getting his name right.
A similar thing happened with another character (in the same story) just the other day, too. I heard a name and suddenly thought "That's IT!!" Strangely, it was a different gender. My lady became a bloke, and suddenly the whole story had so much more to chew on, and much, much greater tension. I can't believe how this stuff happens, it's crazy. And I LOVE it!! Can't wait to start ripping into that story now - just gotta finish those edits on the last one :)

Susie Finkbeiner said...

I am currently working on novel #2. I love how vastly different it's been this time! New characters, new setting, new plot. I'm loving these characters and feel at home with them. I adore being in that place with them. And, as Megan said, this is probably one of the only places where I wouldn't be called "crazy" for saying so.

I'm seizing this year with a novel out and one in the works. I've got 2013 in a vice grip!

Lori Benton said...

Sharon, I'm sharing in your joy. Starting a new story is also one of my favorite times, and as I read your words I was smiling, because that's exactly what I'm doing here in Jan 2013. We come at this story gestation very much alike. I have a file where I'm writing the back story, motivation, physical characteristics, spiritual outlook and anything else that comes to me for every character that will have any sort of arc through the story at all (complete with pictures of faces... and our hunt for names is so very similar too). In so doing a plot is rolling in like the tide, tossing up all sorts of ideas. I won't have this much fun again, except for short unexpected bursts, until the first draft is done and I go to editing. There's a lot of research involved, since it's a slightly new era for me, 1740s. I enjoy the research part as well, because it invariably throws out some great plot ideas that I wouldn't have dreamed up on my own. What a fun season to be in as writers.

SharonK Souza said...

Megan, Susie and Lori, Oh, aren't we birds of a feather here? "2013 in a vice grip!" Great description, Susie. Carpe Annum, everyone!

Cherry Odelberg said...

I aim to live 2013 as though I have been given 365 days to live - good grief, 14 of them are already gone.

Jennifer Major said...

Carpe Diem has always been one of my favourite sayings, and ways to see life.
Carpe Annum is a mind blower.

Starting a novel as a reader is like opening a door into a world that is all my own, but was given to me by a friend I haven't met yet.

Kathleen Popa said...

Amazing, Sharon. I know the year you've had, and can't wait to see how it will show up in your writing. Can't wait to read your next.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

I enjoy starting novels so much that a beginning could explode out of me every day. The miracle is that I have 'finished' a story. 500,000 words later everything that needs to happen has been laid out. Now I have to find the golden thread that readers will be willing to engage. It is the only work I have developed deserving the description 'novel'.
Last year I allowed another story to explode over two days. It itched so outrageously I finally wore the paper through with the sharp end of my pen. It is such an outrageous departure from what I think is permissible in literature that it will never see the light of day in its present form. I think it will have to be an epic poem full off allusions and word pictures to place it above the reach of the masses who love to aberate God's gifts.
However, because of it I know the joy of beginning a new work.

SharonK Souza said...

Cherry, I love your outlook. Yes, we must take advantage of every day. I'm so guilty of not doing that, but I'm going to make it my priority this year.

Jennifer, you said it perfectly. That's exactly how it is.

Katy, love you!

lingerieocean, welcome!

Henrietta, 500,000 words? That is amazing. Is that the length of your novel? I know what you mean about starting novels. There's no end to the starts we could make, but it's "finishing the race" that matters. Patti had that debate recently. Beginning and endings are very important to our work, but I do believe the ending tips the scale in importance, by a little. It's the last thing our readers sees of us, the last taste they have. If it isn't satisfying they won't be back for more.

Latayne C Scott said...

Your enthusiasm is contagious, dearest Sharon! Run with it, run, run with the wind!

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