Friday, March 5, 2010

Pre-Writing-Tart Style—by Hart Johnson

Today, I’m welcoming Hart Johnson to the blog. Hart is currently working on the third book of her Conspiracy trilogy and blogs at Confessions of a Watery Tart on writing, digressions, and her road to publication.

LegacyCover For those of you who don't know me, I go by the Watery Tart in several areas of my life, and it's true that I have trouble behaving myself, so why should my writing plans be any different? A few weeks ago when Elizabeth asked for volunteers to guest blog, though, I thought... well at least my approach is probably different than everyone else’s... and I do a few things right, so I thought I'd throw it out for your perusal.

The Ideas

Ideas are the precious resource of writing, and unlike certain creative types, I can't force them. I don't wander through my day noticing interesting things (I'm lucky if I notice my children) and the interesting things I think are more likely to get me arrested than published. I find that the big ideas most often come accidentally. I have to be COMPLETELY relaxed. That is one reason I do most of my writing in the bathtub. The fan drowns out my family and their incessant watching of The Office or Family Guy. The water calms me, a Sudoku puzzle releases my academic brain, and then I write, and often, just that will release some creative juices and something interesting will flow without me even being aware of the process. But the TRULY big ideas usually come in dreams, or in that lazy not quite asleep anymore space of early morning, or EVERY once in a while, in the midst of some silly conversation where the tart in my says, 'hey, you oughta write a book on that'.

Those ideas get written down and put in a notebook, which occasionally I'll thumb through, but more often I'll get the SAME really great idea a SECOND time and think HEY! I already had that idea, but I will build on it a little.

And even more often than THAT, I get a completely unrelated idea. *cough * (this isn't helpful, is it?), but here is the fun part...

The Power Walk

I try, four days a week, to exercise somewhat strenuously. I walk to and from work daily, but that's not a 'sweat-paced' walk, because I work with people, and they appreciate it if I don't stink. But four days a week I exercise before my shower, usually with an iPod, but if I don't take the iPod, when I am walking, brain relaxed but body exerting, there is some sort of magical synapse connection thing that often happens. It will occur to me how to connect two ideas that alone were not quite a starting point, but together, they are a skeleton of a story.

The power walk also works if I run up against a brick wall in my story and I can't figure out how to get from point A to point B, but that's writing, not pre-writing, so I'm not going to talk about that!


This actually falls in the idea stage, but would have broken my (somewhat) cohesive train of what I do, had I put it in there. In spite of flying by the seat of my pantslessness in most parts of my life, I need my ideas to stew... they need to germinate. Last February I had a dream about sitting in a house typing, and realizing there were kids watching me, and I thought, 'what an interesting set-up...moving into a house that had kids hiding in the walls or attic for some reason... why would they do that?' A little more thought brought out parents that were spies who had disappeared and the kids had just hidden, and I tried and tried to force out a few scenes, but it wasn't happening, so I set it aside and started a different book.

In AUGUST, something I read sparked something else entirely and a power walk connected the two ideas, and I wrote the prequel to the above story in 6 short weeks. It had been in there the whole time, dancing around, promising to be a great story, but until that second idea and the connection, I just couldn't make it fly.

Maybe someday I'll get back to that OTHER story I was working on! That seems to be how it has to go for me, though—idea, work on something else while that stews, THEN I can work with the idea I'd been so in love with.

[A note on research because so many do it in prep—for sneaking_50perme it is a rewrite thing. I find I am overly accommodating if I do it ahead, and just end up with a long mess. Better to get down my story and then tweak with the facts LATER].

That's my story and I'm sticking with it!

Thanks so much for guest blogging today, Hart! I’m thinking I might try your power walking method for pre-writing…I’ll just have to remember not to mutter to myself as I do it (a frequent plotting activity of mine. :) )