Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Writing by the Seat of Will North's Pants @WillNorthAuthor #Women #Fiction #MustRead

I’m in the middle of writing my nineteenth book. It’s also my fifth novel. I switched to fiction late in my writing career.
Before that, and for many years, I was a nonfiction ghostwriter on a wide array of subjects, and for a colorful collection of clients who included Bill Clinton, Al Gore, a team of history-making mountaineers, a famous doctor, a “green living” pioneer, a young group of paleontologists who found the largest dinosaur in history, and any number of others.  What I loved about being a ghostwriter was that the challenge was always new, and typically on a subject I knew relatively little about (Dinosaurs? They’re still dead, right? Where’s the story in that?).
What I didn’t love was that all my clients were always in a hurry: there was an election to win, or there was a film being made, or there was a PBS television program to be broadcast for which we need the matching book, and so forth.  I seldom had more than three months to produce the final product. Think about that. Think about the number of chapters in an average book. Then, think about the number of weeks in three months and how many chapters you need to write in those weeks. Not to mention the research needed to write them. And finally, figure in no time for rewrites.
Like impending death, this sort of task focuses the mind marvelously and generates entire reservoirs of adrenalin.  I wrote ten to twelve hours a day, seven days a week.
By the seat of my pants.
Other than arriving at a clear sense of the arc of the story, I did not outline, although I kept a scribbled list of the order of subjects in each chapter on butcher paper on the wall by my desk, as I wrote them.  Any good creative writing professor will tell you this is nuts. But it worked for me. And for my clients and publishers. My first drafts went direct to print. Please understand: I am not bragging; I just didn’t know any better! Or any different.
When I finally turned to fiction, I still didn’t know any better.  My first novel, The Long Walk Home, exploded out of me in the usual three months, without an outline. It was sold to a major New York “legacy” publisher in ten days. Then I decided, since I knew nothing about writing fiction, that perhaps I’d better look into how to do it. I discovered that many novelists outline their stories in detail before they even begin writing.  It tried that for a couple of weeks with my second novel and gave up. It felt like being in a straightjacket.
And this is where I get to tell you about the magic of NOT outlining.  When I begin a novel, I usually only have three things in my head: a setting, a couple of characters, and some underlying theme I want to explore. That’s it.  So picture this for a moment:  I’m writing page three of the very first chapter of my second novel, Water, Stone, Heart, when—out of the blue—an eight year old girl, smart as a whip, shows up on the page. I look around my office and in my head I’m saying, “Where the hell did YOU come from? What are you doing in my story?” And then she proceeds to effectively take over the book. I am not kidding.
That’s “seat of the pants.”  That’s being open to magic, to surprise.  I often tell readers I don’t so much write as take dictation from my (often very bossy) characters.  I’m not really in the driver’s seat. They are.  I can see them look at the outline on the wall by my desk and just hoot in derision, “No way, Dude!”
“Seat of the Pants” works for me, and every day is a surprise.

Every summer for generations, three families intertwined by history, marriage, and career have spent “the season” at their beach cottage compounds on an island in Puget Sound. Today, Martha “Pete” Petersen, married to Tyler Strong, is the lynchpin of the “summer people.” In childhood, she was the tomboy every girl wanted to emulate and is now the mother everyone admires.
Colin Ryan, family friend and the island’s veterinarian, met Pete first in London, years earlier, when she visited his roommate, Tyler. He’s loved her, privately, ever since. Born in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, son of a bar owner, he’s always been dazzled by what he sees of the sun-kissed lives of the summer people.
But this summer, currents strong as the tides roil: jealousies grow, tempers flare, passions clash. Then, on the last day of the season, a series of betrayals alters the combined histories of these families forever.
As in previous novels, The Long Walk Home and Water, Stone, Heart, with Seasons’ End, Will North weaves vivid settings and memorable characters into a compelling tale of romance and suspense.
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Genre – Women’s Contemporary Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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