Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Novel gazing again

I keep comparing What We Did to Piss Off the Continent to a pinata: every time I whack it with a stick, tasty things shoot out. Today was difficult because Mris not brain so good. (I woke up at 5:40 thinking, "Must -- not -- let -- Karina -- miss -- plane!!!!! In, um, six hours. Oh. Crap.") But the book: it is a good and shiny book. For at least the next five pages.

And with that, a series of fiction-writing-centered questions, last answered by rysmiel that I saw:

1. Do you outline?

Oh yes. The incredible disappearing kind. The kind with almost no detail in spots and lots of detail in others, interspersed with what's already written.

2. Do you write straight through, or do you sometimes tackle the scenes out of order?

I wrote a story in order once. It went pretty well, but never since. Chronology is overrated.

3. Do you prefer writing with a pen or using a computer?

I mostly prefer using the computer because stuff is going to have to go on the computer anyway, so it's more efficient. But sometimes a little inefficiency is good for my brain. I wrote my first two novels entirely longhand -- my first four if you count the two I destroyed in my tender years -- and I still revert to my paper journals when I'm stuck or mopey.

4. Do you prefer writing in first person or third?

Definitely. You don't want to write in second person. You really don't like it.

5. Do you listen to music while you write?

Sometimes. When timprov was sharing this office with me, or when my computer was at the intersection of living room, dining room, and kitchen in Hayward, it was almost all the time. But now sometimes, and sometimes not. I sing a lot to myself regardless of whether there's other music, though. Sometimes this appears to be psychological, other times if it is, it's too opaque to spot.

6. How do you come up with the perfect names for your characters?

I don't think I'd lay any claims to perfection. But when the story is ready to go, names are a lot easier than when it's still percolating. The late Dowager Queen's original name and her new name were both immediately available to me when I needed them last week; if you'd asked me in January what she was called, I would have hemmed and hawed and felt terrible about not knowing.

7. When you're writing, do you ever imagine your story as a television show or movie?

Do you ever imagine your story as a ballet or a Surrealist painting or a wooden bowl or a concerto for three flutes and a marimba?

Yes. I think dancing about architecture is a perfectly sensible thing to do. But make no mistake: I think that imagining your story as a television show or movie is dancing about architecture. The ideas of casting and camera angles do have some utility, and so would knowing whether your lead would be cast as a basso profundo or a mezzo soprano if it was an opera. I have in my head a Futurist portrait of the main character of What We Did. This is useful to me internally, even though her society won't start flirting with the avant garde for many, many years.

Imagining your story in visual and kinesthetic detail is not and should not be the same thing as imagining it as a television show or movie, and I think a great deal of shoddy writing comes from confusing the two.

8. Have you ever had a character insist on doing something you really didn't want him/her to do?

Actions taken by these characters not endorsed by the management. Protag not intended as role model. Void where prohibited.

So: yes. Of course. Definitely. Have I ever had them do something inconvenient to me as a writer? Yes, of course, but it doesn't feel to me as though they are going to do such a thing or want to do such a thing but as though they already have done it, and I'm stuck with the results.

9. Do you know how a book is going to end when you start it?

Yes, but I'm often wrong.

10. Where do you write?

Here, there, and everywhere. Mostly at my desk in my office, sometimes on the couch in the living room, occasionally at Caribou or the Tea Source or Jiffy Lube or Goodyear or the doctor's office or whatever. My paper journal is quite useful.

11. What do you do when you get writer's block?



Batter my head against that brick wall from as many angles as I can find.

Saunter past, whistling in a jaunty and nonchalant way. Oh, hello, novel! Didn't see you there! I was just doing this other thing here!

Bull through it.

Try again.

Ask smart friends.

Tell people what's going on so I can see what's coming out of my mouth.

Try again.

Drink some water and think about whether my blood sugar has dropped again. (Seriously, more than half of my experience of being blocked is very short-term and occurs because I'm hypoglycemic and not very bright. Someone recently observed that I don't have the archetypal hypoglycemic crankiness when I'm extremely hungry. No; all that gets turned inward.)

12. What size increments do you write in (either in terms of wordcount, or as a percentage of the fic as a whole)?

(I do not write fics. I write stories.)

Whatever I have at the time. Five words, ten words, a hundred, a thousand, two thousand, three thousand. A line, a paragraph, a scene, a chapter. Whatever's there before I have to not be doing it any more.

13. How many different drafts did you write for your last project?

The definitional assumptions here are extremely complex. I write a lot of short stories. I submit them. Editors ask for revisions, or they don't. So saying one or two or five doesn't really make anything make more sense -- it's no more accurate than any of the other numbers would be. Is my last project the last thing I started submitting fresh, the last thing I revised to request, the most recent thing accepted, the most recent thing published? This is just not how I think of things.

14. Have you ever changed a character's name midway through a draft?

Uff da, yes. In Thermionic Night and Copper Mountain. Laura became Lucy. This is no end of trouble. Half of the things that had to be changed in her scenes were things Laura would have done, and Lucy would have no part of them. And now I have this terrible knowledge that it's not that Laura doesn't exist (in the fictional context, anyway), it's that she's Lucy's sister, and I had the wrong sister for awhile, and Laura is back in Britain muddling through some things but generally having a much better time of it, and someday I'm going to have to talk about how it's going for Laura at some length. I dread this. I didn't need more projects; I certainly didn't need more projects because I had the wrong sister.

15. Do you let anyone read your story while you're working on it, or do you wait until you've completed a draft before letting someone else see it?

Writing out of order makes it very hard to let people read partial drafts. For my first real novel, timprov read it as I wrote it, and markgritter got discussed updates nightly. This worked reasonably enough because we were all so enmeshed with the thing, and because it was a YA and therefore short. Since then, everyone waits for an actual draft.

Myself, I dislike reading partial drafts. For the right people, I would/will. But I'm much better at holistic critiques than partial ones.

I see the utility -- at least on the emotional level -- of having someone smart tell you that your book is not, in fact, crap, when you're only 100 pages into it. I just don't write in a way that makes that sort of thing generally possible or believable.

16. What do you do to celebrate when you finish a draft?

First draft or submission draft of a novel? Out for dinner or ice cream. Other drafts? This is what I do, and I am not much for giving myself cookies for it.

17. One project at a time, or multiple projects at once?

Multiple, within limits.

18. Do your stories grow or shrink in revision?

The net result is that they grow, but I cut substantially as well as adding substantially.

19. Do you have any writing or critique partners?

timprov and I have worked together at varying distances (mental distances, mostly) for years now. Collabs sometimes. Critiques. Discussion. Etc.

Several of you-all are on my list of people to poke when I'm looking for crits, and I will do crits for others, too, sometimes. I had a writers' group in California with some really good people in it, some of whom I miss dreadfully. I told lydy she could be Zed this weekend, but for some reason she didn't do it.

20. Do you prefer drafting or revising?

They both have their charm. Revising is generally less-favorite, but sometimes it comes with such a sense of relief. With drafting, you don't know how well it's going to go. With revising, you can see where it went terribly, but at least, thank God, you have the chance to fix it.
Tags: full of theories, what we did

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  • Books read, late March

    Pat Cadigan, Patterns. Reread. One of the strange things about keeping a booklog is that you can discover that you had the urge to read the same…

  • Star Scouts, by Mike Lawrence

    Review copy provided by First Second Books. Some kids’ books are really everybody books, but we call them kids’ books because…

  • Books read, early March

    The vertigo is bad and I am reading a lot right now. I’m also bouncing off a lot of library books–more books than I read this fortnight.…