How I Write – Stitching

10 02 2011

I’m starting to get a feel for the social media aspect of this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not new to da internetz. I go all the way back to good old fashioned Usenet, in the early 90s. I’m a battle scarred veteran of the early days, when you never let anyone online know you were female, and when trolls had yet to be named. 

A survivor of the Great Flame Wars. Youse lot are amateurs, mostly, nowadays. I’ve been blogging, with a substantial following, for several years. But that’s another story, and another me.

The bit I’m getting used to is being on here as a writer, promoting my fiction, my work and craft; even just talking about! It’s not something I’m used to, and am only doing, prior to the run up of Changeling being published on April 10th.

But I’m finding my feet, so to speak. And one part of that, was deciding that this blog was also going to include snippets of How I Write. It’s something that can be useful to other writers, and something I find I like to share, as I’m talking about something that is such a part of me, and I usually don’t talk about it at all. It’s also idiosyncratic, as we all write in so many different ways.

So, without further ado… How I Write: Stitching

Stitching is an awful thing. It’s the worst thing about being a writer, if you write the way I do. I do not create full blown narratives, from the beginning, and work through them until the end. Far from it. I start with one scene in my head. One idea, usually an interaction between characters. Full formed, and usually high tension.

From there, I get to develop a sense of character. And snippets of a story line. Everything I see and do, plays into this. I watch a documentary on Ancient Rome, a snippet of info comes my way from it. I think “Oh that would be useful for…” None of it builds logically, or sensibly within a narrative structure per se. I have a set of scenes, a set of characters, and a sense of where I need to get to. 

Therefore,I end up with a narrative written in starts and fits. The first written page of Changeling appears in the first chapter. That was a good one. The next main written section was the ending. Oy vey!

Of the middle sections, most of the last half of the book, was written first. In fact, the second half of the sequel, Lucifer’s Stepdaughter, was written before most of Changeling was. I always knew I was writing to one crucial scene, in the last narrative section of Lucifer’s Stepdaughter.

Go figger.

This is not without its problems. Whilst the golden moments of a new idea, a new scene, a new character interacting with my hapless heroine are… well, wonderful. (And make no mistake, those muse ridden moments of inspiration, when you start writing and fall into the hole in the page, emerging many hours later to find you’ve burnt the dinner… are hugely wonderful. And satisfying. And sexy.)

They are also few and far between. Mostly, it’s hard slog. Mostly, it’s sitting there, gritting your teeth and making yourself Write. One. More. Word. 

And that’s stitching. When you have to sit and slog and slog and slog. Each word literally pulled out of the you, and stitched onto the page in front of you. And another word, and another word. And then it’s a sentence. And. You. Keep. Going. 

Eventually, you have a paragraph, then a page. Then a chapter. And when you started at the end of Scene A, you have finally written your narrative out Word. By. Bloody. Word. to meet the beginning of Scene B. You have stitched the two together. Then you move on, and start stitching that bit, to the next one.

Sometimes it’s not so bad. Scene A and Scene B turn out to only be a chapter apart. Sometimes, it’s half a book. Between Chapter 1 of Changeling, and what was a main narrative sequence later down the line… I had to stitch 8 chapters. One. Word. At. A. Time.

Hell on Earth. Nothing is more hard work, more mind boggingly, painstakingly awful, than crafting out a story cold. No muse, no inspiration, no hole in the page to jump into. Just sheer, hard slog.

But you keep at it. You keep going. The story has to be told, the canvas has to filled. The needle of your mind, has to keep pulling the threads through your sections, and stitch together whole cloth.

Seamlessly. There’s the rub. Nothing more fun than writing an opening chapter, a decade after you wrote the ending one! 

I often envy those who write in linear flow. I hesitate to think it must be easier, as I don’t think any one of us, can ever know what another writer is going through, when they craft a narrative. But when I’m faced, as I am now, with one half of a chapter and then the last third of a book… and I have to stitch the entire next two thirds of a book… I think there must be easier ways to go stark staring mad, than being a writer. 

So there you go. Now you know what I’m doing, if you see the hashtag #stitching.

And. It’s. Bloody. Hard. Work.