Saturday 20 July 2019

Still a Water-boatman, After All These Years - Joan Lennon

A decade ago (not down to the second, because I had a different ABBA day of the month back then, but close enough) I was writing this:

A Demolition of Square Brackets

I'm not a sequential, chronological type of writer. By which I mean, starting at the beginning of a story and writing through until I get to the end is as alien to me as sun-bathing. (Though I am not suggesting that writing in a beginning-to-end fashion is carcinogenic or gives you leather for skin.) I am not alone in having a writing style that can be (and has been) described as "water-boatman-like". A scene here - a scene there - concentrated whirling on one spot before ricocheting off to another to whirl again. Eventually I have enough scenes to start to sew them together. As I do that, if I can't think how to make something work, or a seam seem seamless, I put square brackets around it and go play somewhere else. Eventually the holes begin to be closed - a point comes where I must hunt down what cowers between the brackets - and, one by one, I pummel them into prose. Have at thee, square brackets! Are metaphors being mixed? Who cares!

It's a heady feeling, finishing a book!

Time has passed and in those years, the writing process I fell into at the beginning of my career hasn't changed.  Right now I'm at that intoxicating first stage of a novel, whirling and ricocheting.  I know this means I'll have a hard time ahead, pulling it all together and demolishing the square brackets.  But right now, I don't care.

It's a heady feeling, starting a book!

Tell us about your favourite stage - when do you get your heady feeling? 

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.
Slightly Jones and the London Dragonfish 
(the book I was just finishing way back then)


Susan Price said...

I'm a 'start at the beginning and go on to the end' plodder and don't think I could work any other way. I'd feel lost if I let go off that plot-line -- but if the whirligig water-boatman style can produce Silverskin and Walking Mountain, maybe I should try it!

What, in writing, gives me a heady feeling? Not starting a book -- that's trepidation and an impending sense of failure until I've got at least half of it done.

I'd say, finishing a key scene, when it's gone well, the characters have all cooperated, the punch-lines have worked -- or will do, when they've been polished a bit -- that brings on one of those euphoric highs that I've never got from exercise.

Anne Booth said...

I think it is when the story reveals more about a character than you knew when you started writing it - I have a character in my present story who has a fault, but I have only just discovered what it is - and now I know, it is such a relief, and makes sense of the plot.

Thank you for a very interesting post!

Joan Lennon said...

Thanks, Sue and Anne, and yes! I love those times too!