Wednesday, June 13, 2012
This Is Your Brain on Writing
Sometimes I think my brain is out to get me. Most of the time we get along okay. After all, Mr. Brain can’t get to the bookstore without me to cart him around. For his part, he’s really useful when it comes to driving a car and remembering where I live and stuff like that. I should probably eat better foods and send more nutrition his way. I’m sure Mr. Heart and Mr. Stomach would appreciate that too.
Then there’s the rest of the time, like when I’m trying to write or figuring out what I want to write next. When it comes to help with the storytelling, Mr. Brain can be a total bastard.
More than once I’ve tried the “sleep on it” technique when I’ve been stymied by a plot. Here’s how it’s supposed to work: right before bed you either write down all the problems you’re having and all the questions you want answered or go over them all in your head. In theory, your subconscious will tackle the problems while you’re asleep and you’ll wake up with plot solutions. Here’s how it works for me: I ask my questions before going to sleep. Then I have bizarre dreams about being back in high school and unable to find my last class. (At least I’m not naked. Usually.) When I wake up, I have no answers. Instead I could have a whole new idea, or maybe a craving for pizza. Later in the day, usually when I’m in the shower or on the road or anywhere else that’s far from a pen or a keyboard, Mr. Brain will casually toss inspiration my way. This is why I’ve learned to keep a notebook and pen in my purse. At times like these I swear I can hear the bastard laughing.
I didn’t write my last story because it was on my list or I’d been outlining it or waiting to get to it. I was actually working on a different story. Apparently Mr. Brain didn’t like that one, because he dredged up an idea I’d had simmering for years and announced, “Okay, time to write this one.” Which I did, in only about two-three months, which is quick for me. All right, sometimes these things work out to our mutual benefit. What about all those stories I had to abandon because you said, “Nah, don’t wanna”? Or I’ve got edits to work on and you keep nudging me for “just one game” of Freecell. That doesn’t help, y’know. I’m still waiting for your apology.
It just happened again. Once a story’s done and out in the world, I tend to flounder around for a while, anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, while I try to figure out what to write next. This time I tried a new technique. When Borders went belly-up they put their inventory on sale, and I picked up a book on how to write a novel in 90 days. Since I was torn between two possibles (yes, Serena, one of them was Cas’s story) I decided to go for both and see which one pulled ahead. So I did the daily exercises, wrote up character bios for two different casts, planned scenes, analyzed conflicts—
And Mr. Brain decided to throw me a curve. Out of nowhere, he hauled out a flash I’d written for Shapeshifter Seductions and added a plot and characters to it and told me, “This is the one. Write this one.” What’s a writer to do?
What can I do? The two books I’d been planning are back on hold (sorry, Serena) while I work on the new one. We’ll see if I finish it. Mr. Brain might decide to get cute and throw other distractions at me. If only there were some way to live without a brain. I know, I’ll go into politics.
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PS and shameless plug: I think I’ve got an idea how to jump start that one book. Legacy is due out in print within the next 4-6 weeks. I always buy at least one print copy of my books. When it gets here, I think I’ll read that and Belonging in order and see if that galvanizes me into finishing the trilogy. I can hear Mr. Brain already, plotting his next bit of sabotage. The bastard.