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  • Writer's pictureBill

Time Out

Why a time out? I'm waiting for Baby Doe, the first novel in the NICU series starring Eli Kurz MD, to come back to me for a last look after its final proofread at Wheatmark.

Baby Doe and the third novel in the series, Saving Julian, were both written in the "pantser" mode, that is to say, by the seat of my pants, with no initial concerns about structure. Both of these two "finished" novels were fun to write as far as the first draft was concerned. But then both of them took years of revision to beat them into shape.

I have 30,000 words of the second novel in the NICU series, titled DiBene, which I'm now thinking about. The revisions of Baby Doe and Saving Julian were painful, so to minimize that sort of pain with DiBene, I've been worrying the bone of novel structure before I create another "shitty first draft," as recommended by Hemingway and Anne Lamont.

Plottr offered use of a bunch of structures, but it's a little difficult to see the growth of the whole novel. Next I used Weiland's book, Structuring Your Novel, also helpful on three act structure, major plot turns, and pinch points, but when I jammed my ideas into that framework, it felt too formulaic at least for this early stage So I turned to the Snowflake method. It got me a two page "description" of events in the new novel.

But then Daniel Weizmann, my writing buddy and editor par excellence (I'll refer you if you email me), recommended Robert Olen Butler's book on the process of writing fiction called From Where You Dream. This book is great for a number of things, for example how to write with "sensual particularity" (a phrase of Oakley Hall, the founder of the famous Squaw Valley writers conference). Also a description of the elusive term "voice"--"Voice is the embodiment in language of the contents of your unconscious." But of special relevance to us pantsers now on the wagon, his way of initiating a new novel uses "dreamstorming," a useful and attractive term of art for us lackadaisical procrastinating layabouts to jump start 0ur new novel. Dreamstorming is the opposite of erecting scaffolds and frameworks for novel construction. I won't throw out Weiland and Plottr altogether in favor of the dreamstorming bathwater I'm now soaking in, The structuralists will be useful for the endgame, but for me Butler is like a shot of IV heroin. (Just assuming. We used it on rabbits in the lab back in the day, in Montreal, but that's another story from my former day job).

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