Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Writing Backstitch

Simpsons Point, Brunswick at sunset

February has been a month of shoveling, skiing and writing. We've had three major storms and the piles are now higher than my head. January was frigid with very little snow. My work-in-progress was equally frozen for a month of revision, but now I'm writing new chapters. I've been writing at home or in a hotel room while visiting colleges with my 16-year-old daughter. The word count fluctuates daily.

I feel like I'm writing in backstitch, moving two words forward and one word back. One day I'll draft a new scene, and then the next day I'll rewrite it. Sometimes I go back to previous scenes to weave in backstory and foreshadowing or to mend plot holes. Other days I shuffle scenes.

Before I start writing a novel, I know the beginning, the ending and a few major plot points, but I don't outline the first draft. I enjoy the spontaneity of discovery as I write. If I can't surprise myself, how will I surprise the reader?

My non-linear writing style works well with Scrivener since you compose in scenes that are easy to shuffle around as virtual index cards on a cork board. I keep track of characters on other index cards. Scenes get organized into chapter folders. There are some features I can't figure out, like how to check where a scene is in the total word count. I expect the novel writing software to be the most useful for revising future drafts. Now to ski before an ice storm ruins the snow.

Olympic Watch: the gold medal ice dance of Meryl Davis and Charlie White 2/17/14


Gloria Baker said...

Just beautiful! I love the pictures!!xx
Love see snow here is hoooot!!!

A Cuban In London said...

I loved that expression: writing backstitch. I think it sums up how we feel about life sometimes! :-) Beautiful pictures.

Greetings from London.

tina said...

That is a lot of snow! I remember those days when I was a kid. Glad the book is coming along. It's like the first time you have spoken of it in a long time and I was wondering about it.

Sarah Laurence said...

Gloria, thanks!

ACIL, art copies life

Tina, yes, you would know from snow. My Maine YA novel is set in spring/summer. Wish fulfillment?

Booksnyc said...

Wow - that is a lot of snow - even for Maine. And I thought NYC was bad!

Thanks for sharing your writing process - a true labor of love. I can't wait to read your book when it is out!

Sarah Laurence said...

Booksnyc, I think NYC had more snow than Maine in January but we've caught up this month. The snow is more difficult to navigate in the city. Your eagerness to read my book is the best incentive to keep writing it. Thank you!

Cat said...

I completely agree with ACIL; the story of my life. We've finally warmed up here so spring won't be too long for you :)
Looking forward to your novel!

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Sarah,

How fascinating to have an insight into how your novels take shape. The writing process is such a highly individual choice and it is always of interest to know how it takes place for a certain person.

You do seem to have had a large amount of snow. Very unusually here in Budapest there has been little of the white stuff and it has been much warmer than in recent years. We do miss the icy cold and those clear sunny days that usually accompany them. It all looks so wonderfully pretty where you are but I am sure that you will welcome Spring when she comes.

Skeeter said...

That snow makes me shiver! It has been a crazy cold winter for us down South but it seems everyone along the East Coast, Mid-West, South etc. are dealing with snow, ice and frigid temps. I am so ready for spring to arrive. Then the heat of summer will set in and we will all be wishing for cooler temps. Ha...

troutbirder said...

Though I've never really dabbled with the thought of writing The Great American Novel like many of my English teaching friends have, it appears from your schedule that there was more to it than my lack of talent.... The work involved would also exceed my energy level....:)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hi Sarah, I love that image of writing in backstitch. I feel the same as I revise scene by scene, trying to make all the words count.
It can be painstaking but rewarding when it works.
Good luck with the snow piles. New England is so beautiful but soooo much snow.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, I smiled when reading your remark "If I can't surprise myself, how will I surprise the reader?". :)
Writing a novel is undoubtedly a hard work, going back and forth, reading everything again and again, adjusting characters and scenes. What an intense feeling it must be to know the book is finished and ready to be published. It's interesting for me - a non-writer - to have a look behind the scenes. :)

Amanda Summer said...

I know the beginning and a few major plot points but not the ending...fascinating to learn how others write. I also love the spontaneity of discovering the story as I write. Your point is well taken - if you can't surprise yourself, how can you expect to do so for the reader?Your backstitch method is resplendent with Penelope metaphor.

Donna said...

I loved Meryl and Charlie's ice-dancing! I hope your writing is going well. If I ever write a book I think I'll end up using Word because the other sites sounds a little overwhelming for inexperienced me!

Sarah Laurence said...

Cat, thanks for the encouragement!

Jane & Lance, welcome back to blogging! I didn’t realize that Budapest had little snow.

Skeeter, as much as I enjoy winter, I am looking forward to spring.

Troutbirder, so much of writing a novel is perseverance. It’s not for everyone.

Tricia, good luck with your writing too.

Petra, writing is a lot of work but I enjoy it too.

Amanda, I love that Penelope connection, but I hope I’m not unraveling most of my work.

Donna, I enjoyed the ladies’ figure skating too. Thanks for reminding me to watch. I used to write in Word, and it worked well for writing in a linear fashion, but it wasn’t as easy to edit.