The Birth of a Novel
When it comes to writing, I’m a classic ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ girl. The idea of creating an outline makes me wrinkle my nose and immediately change the subject. It may be how I was taught to write in the good ol’ classroom, but my creativity doesn’t flow through Roman numerals and bullet points. Those things would strangle my thoughts before I even had time to write them.
A panster to the core, that’s me.
Now, perhaps this is a reflection of the odd wiring within my brain, but we’re not going to analyze the quirkiness of me. Instead, let’s talk about how a novel spawns from the seedling of an idea into something wonderful - whether you’re a panster or a plotter.
The context for this exploration is my current work in progress, Rise of Gaia. This YA scifi-fantasy crossover was born of an opening scene that just happened to pop into my head one day. I wrote it out and then left it for a couple of years. Of course, that period of time is when I devoted all of my writing to my first two novels. But the premise for Rise of Gaia was always in the back of my head - germinating.
Rise of Gaia truly developed from an overarching plot idea that has remained constant. It is all of the characterization and story development that grew around this theme. I wanted to tell a story that centered on the perspective of mother earth, Gaia. If she could see and feel how mankind treats the earth, what would she do? This is what I explore in the book and what my characters wrestle with.
Fun sidetone: My working title was The Gloaming. Weird, right? The reason for this rather odd tittle was that first scene I told you about occurs in the gloaming(a.k.a. evening). What’s even more interesting is that scene may never end up in my final draft! This is one of those crazy things that a panster like myself goes through as a story evolves.
Anyway. Where was I?
Being a panster, when it came time to begin writing this story in earnest, I just sat down and wrote. Interestingly, the story went in a few different directions at first as I explored the role and setting for my main character. I wanted her to have some kind of connection to a fantasy component (you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is!) but I hadn’t decided how I would do that. The science fiction themes rest in the environmental events that are central to the plot.
I also wanted to add a new element to my writing: romance. My second book included a slow progression of romantic interest between two characters, but this was not a big theme and I made sure that this didn’t detract from the major aspects of the story. In Rise of Gaia, I wanted romance to be a stronger element of the story but not its primary focus. So I ended up toying with ideas and, during many writing marathons, brought fantasy-science fiction-romance into the story in a way that made sense for the characters and big themes of the book.
Now, I don’t want to give too much away so I won’t go into the specifics of Rise of Gaia, but the process for anything I write is very similar. An idea or initial scene gets me started and from there I go along for a ride that may have many stops and starts along the way. If it is a story that maintains my interest (Sometimes my attention span can run a little short), then I will delve into it wholeheartedly and spin the narrative as I go.
An exciting outcome of this approach is that my characters often surprise me. Yes, I know that may sound strange. To put that into perspective, as I write I am creating storylines and characters that all become pieces of the world that was born out of my mind (I know. That’s kind of scary.). Since I am developing this entire world and narrative as I go, while aligning it to a prominent theme, new characters and events are woven into this tapestry of thought and, eventually, into a complete novel.
I'm about halfway through the first draft of Rise of Gaia and I can tell you that I’m thoroughly enjoying the direction the story has gone. The scenes I am currently writing have begun to include the large action sequences that I have been eager to write since I started the novel. As always, I know how the story will end. I know what my characters will wrestle with. I just don’t know all of the details in between until I write them.
And that is how my books are born.
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