Friday, March 23, 2012

Beginning A Novel...

I'm starting into the process of beginning a new novel. This doesn't involve a laptop, just selecting a nice fat note book to fill with ideas, free writing, drawings and images. In a process similar to the one Nathalie Goldberg calls 'composting' I begin to gather material without any pressure to define the theme or subject. At this stage I have the vaguest of notions - like I want this to be a white book, it will feature the Internet and Emily Dickinson and a disappearance - or it may not, this is a stage where nothing gets ruled out.

How do you go about beginning a new piece of writing?


Some authors have very particular rituals and ceremonies. Isabel Allende for instance always begins her books on January 8th. She has done this since 1981 when she received a phone call to let her know that her grandfather was dying. The letter she wrote to him that day became her first novel, The House Of Spirits. "It was such a lucky book from the very beginning, that I kept that date to start."

This is what she has to say about her process -
"That day, January 8th, which is a sacred day for me, I come to my office very early in the morning, alone. I light some candles for the spirits and the muses. I meditate for a while. I always have fresh flowers and incense. And I open myself completely to this experience that begins in that moment. I never know exactly what I'm going to write. I may have finished a book months before and may have been planning something, but it has happened already twice that when I sit down at the computer and turn it on, another thing comes out. It is as if I was pregnant with something, an elephant's pregnancy, something that has been there for a very long time, growing, and then when I am able to relax completely and open myself to the writing, then the real book comes out. I try to write the first sentence in a state of trance, as if somebody else was writing it through me. That first sentence usually determines the whole book. It's a door that opens into an unknown territory that I have to explore with my characters. And slowly as I write, the story seems to unfold itself, in spite of me. It just happens."

How do you begin a new project? With flowers and incense or just a new e drive and a whiskey?
Have a good weekend!:

14 comments:

Michael Farry said...

Good luck with this, whatever it turns out to be! I begin with scribbles in a notebook, just write down what pours out. Form, shape, order later!

Old Kitty said...

I wish I could be so simultaneously spiritual and cerebral!

I only get a story started once I hurdle past that first line. Otherwise it's just staring at a blank word doc. I'd much rather prefer staring at a manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper curled around the roller thing though...!

Enjoy your new story writing! Have a great weekend too!
Take care
x

Words A Day said...

Michael
Interesting that you stay away from the keyboard at the initial stages too. (And congrats on your upcoming collection!)

Words A Day said...

Old Kitty
the way you descibe blank word doc sounds almost frightening:)! Long may you hurdle past that first line:) Take care:)

Titus said...

Not a novelist, obviously, and rather awed by Allende's method.
For me, and a poem, I think it's because I want to understand an experience or something more tangible. For the more tangible things I research my way into them.
Never take notes though, just read. And then I write the first line (occasionally the last two) and the poem grows from there. First line has got to be right, but I'll change and edit all the others over time if necessary.

Martin said...

I'm constantly intrigued by the many and varied ways we create our art (see here). I very much like the sound of your approach.

Faith Pray said...

Wow. Isabelle Allende's process sounds so seamless - and unbelievably successful. I am on my -nth revision of the novel rewrite, and find myself stupefied by authors who appear so effortless. My ideas come in bright flashes, with stacks of notebooks and scrap paper, but my follow through is slow and ever slogging!

Shelley Sly said...

New beginnings are so exciting!

I always start by opening a Word doc (or sometimes a sheet of paper) and writing out anything and everything I know about the WIP I have in mind. Some of it gets used, some of it gets thrown out.

New follower here. You've got an interesting blog! :)

Clarissa Draper said...

Wow, you have a different way to begin your writing process. Me, it's just a matter of sitting down and typing the first word.

Theresa Milstein said...

I can't believe Isabelle Allende is so specific on her starting date. I begin a new novel when the mood strikes. Sometimes I jot notes, but often I just start writing. I can stop to edit once I know my characters better.

Theresa Milstein said...

I spelled her name wrong. I thought it was Isabel, but I looked at the comment above. Oh well.

AquaMarina said...

good luck with your new project and thank you for this post - I am in a dry spell, no, a drought - will I ever write another poem? :0(

Words A Day said...

Aquamarina
You will, you will...start by writing a poem wondering will you ever write another poem...go on, go on!:)

valeriesirr said...

I love those big fat notebooks too and it's usually longhand for the beginning stages. I like the Allende quote. It always works best to be relaxed. The sunshine helps :)