Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Got Direction? With Guest Blogger: Laura Bickle

Meet YA fiction author Laura Bickle 
today at the Book Boost!

She's here to chat about finding one’s way and here's what she had to say...

There are a lot of ways to find one’s way through a story. No way is more right or wrong than any other. 

I know writers who begin the journey of a novel by plunging immediately into the story, heading for the horizon – I have a friend who has this enviable ability – the power of the “pantser.” Others pick an endpoint and navigate by stars and sun to find their way, happening upon unknown roads and towns as the travel. And others – plotters – insist upon having a map in hand, a packed lunch, an umbrella, and a full tank of gas before setting foot outside the door.

I confess. I'm a plotter.

Part of it's out of preference, part out of necessity. I’ve had editors who want an outline turned in with the manuscript, a timeline. Others want a synopsis before I set a word to paper. They want to know what I'm cooking up, so that there will be no surprises. That's the necessity.

As far as preference goes...I dislike staring at a blank page. It's intimidating. I want to have some idea of where I'm going and how I'm gonna get there.

I begin with a high-level outline. A skeleton or scaffolding. As I work through the manuscript, it becomes more detailed. Flesh gets added to the bones. There are ideas that need to be reiterated, loops that need to be closed, threads to tie up. It eventually breaks into a scene-by-scene outline.

The scene-by-scene outline allows me to easily create a timeline (another occasional editorial request). I find that I'm less tempted to try to pack a superhuman number of events into my heroine's day if I have a visual representation of how much stuff I'm trying to cram between sunrise and sunset.

Breaking a story into scenes helps me to control chapter lengths. If I scribble down the gist of one scene on a note card and the number of pages, I can mix them up and put them together in many configurations.  It keeps me from getting too wedded to a certain order. I also try to write down on the note card the purpose of the scene. If I can't come up with at least three, it goes into the trash bin. After getting spread out on the floor and moved around on a bulletin board, cards wind up getting stapled together in chapter-sized chunks.

As you may have guessed, my outline starts out small. At the outset of a project, it may be only three or four pages. But, as the project grows, I faithfully record what I'm doing on cards. When I'm done, I have a detailed outline that I can analyze for pacing issues, logic gaps, and other mistakes.

That's not to say that I have no "serendipities" or no flow. I do chase ideas down rabbit holes and find my own little synchronicities. The outline is not sacred - it's meant to be torn apart and reconstructed. But I like having a map to show me how far I’ve come and where I’m going…and also where the nearest gas station is.

A Note from the Book Boost: Nice post, Laura.  I wish I could be a plotter.  In real life, I am a planner and organizer but when it comes to writing--I'm one of those "pantser" types.  Go figure.  Thanks for joining us and please tell us more!


If your home was the last safe place on earth, would you let a stranger in?

Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenag- ers are free to experience non-Amish culture before officially joining the church. But before Rumspringa arrives, Katie’s safe world starts to crumble. It begins with a fiery helicopter crash in the cornfields, followed by rumors of massive unrest and the disappearance of huge numbers of people all over the world. Something is out there...and it is making a killing.

Unsure why they haven’t yet been attacked, the Amish Elders make a de- cree: No one goes outside their community, and no one is allowed in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man lying just outside the bounda- ry of their land, she can’t leave him to die. She refuses to submit to the Elder’s rule and secretly brings the stranger into her community—but what else is she bringing in with him?

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1 comment:

Laura Bickle said...

Thanks so much for hosting me today! :-)