Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Guest Blog, How I Write by Clea Simon
My colleague and friend Clea Simon is guest blogging today. Clea is the author of of Mad House: Growing Up in the Shadow of Mentally Ill Siblings (Penguin), Fatherless Women: How We Change After We Lose Our Dads (Wiley), The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats (St. Martin's), and the Theda Krakow mysteries, Mew is for Murder, Cattery Row, and Cries and Whiskers (Poisoned Pen Press)and the upcoming Probable Claws! Many thanks, Clea!
How do we get started? Wow, that’s a big topic. But since Caroline and I are both starting new projects (dare I call them “books” yet?), this is what we’ve been chatting about. She’s letting me ramble on a bit – THANK YOU, CAROLINE – and I’m running her thoughts on my blog. How We Do What We Do…
The blank page is a daunting thing. No matter how many great ideas we have in the shower or while driving (always a favorite place for bits of dialogue and plot complications to pop up), when I sit down at the computer and see that blank page, my creative mind goes into hiding. Whatever I write won’t match those daydreams. However I craft a sentence, it won’t be as graceful, as evocative. As good.
So how do I get started? I’ll be honest, I almost forgot. This summer was eaten up by revisions and small projects, and although I’d promised myself that I’d start my next mystery in September, Labor Day came and went with nothing written. But then I was talking to a friend, another writer, who is thinking of recasting her screenplay as a novel, but was having problems. And it just came out: “Think of a scene and write it.”
Simple, huh? But that’s how I do it. Each night, as I make dinner or floss, I try to imagine what happens next. Not in a grand sense, necessarily, of motive or overall theme. But just what would naturally be the next scene. It might be chronological – the characters are going to sleep: Did they dream? Did they wake refreshed? Or do I not care about that and want to jump ahead to the next day at work, when I know someone is going to pick a fight? I don’t know what will happen, or how long that scene will be. Or even if that scene will make it into the next draft! But as long as I have a set up, a conversation, or even something my character has to do – well, I have something to work on the next day, and the page gets filled!