Sunday, April 17, 2011

Conquering the Beast: One Writer's Thought on Starting and Finishing a Novel

In my years as a writer (and my years as a “want-to-be” writer) I’ve probably started and stopped more than 10 novels.  Many of them were tied so closely to my personal experiences that when I was ready to move on in reality, I couldn’t stand replaying memories I’d rather forget on paper. Others sprung from daydreams I’d have in the shower or driving or while twisting my hair. They’d start with mini dialogue between characters that didn’t yet fully exist in mind; characters with no beginning or end, just engaging in random conversation that seemed to tie into some larger theme.
So here I am again, making yet another attempt at conquering the “writing a novel” beast. But this time, I’m focusing more on my approach, my tone, my storyline and on developing my characters before I start rather than while I’m writing.  I want to tackle the hard parts before they topple me down and run me back into the “I can’t do this” abyss. Some quick internet research led me to a snowflake research design method that’s been very helpful. (It might look a little sketchy at first glance but it’s at the top of the Google search list when you type in “writing a novel” for a reason.) I also keep a little notebook with me on which I jot down everything that comes to my mind about my characters, including the way their hair might fall on their shoulders or the way they might respond when they’re stuck between fighting and fleeing.
I was editing a document today at work and came across a passage that sparked my attention.
“Data, information and knowledge form a continuum in which data are transformed to information, and ultimately to knowledge that can be used to make decisions…. Information is data that is given meaning when connected to a context. It is data used to comprehend and organize our environment, unveiling an understanding of relations between data and context. Alone, however, it does not carry any implications for future action.”
I thought this was the perfect way for me to look at my approach to novel writing. The data, or random thoughts and moments of dialogue I sometimes hear in my head, are given meaning when I can connect them back to the overall context of the story I’m trying to tell and to the environment I’m trying to create, organize and comprehend. When I bring all these data, information and knowledge together I hope to paint a picture of some of the everyday issues people face in life and how they respond to and overcome them. From the stories I read, I hope to learn and grow. Through the stories I write, I hope to teach and inspire.

– Janelle Williams
   Writer and Beauty/Skin Care Consultant
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