Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How do you write?

At our SCBWI schmooze last night we discussed how and when people write. Once they have all the information? Before they finished the research?  How do they organize - with note cards, sticky notes, scraps of paper, on the computer? We determined the method depends on the person.

According to Teresa Funke, there are several methods and one should choose whichever works for them. One of my unpublished books, a fictional autobiography of one incident from my childhood, I wrote by just sitting down and writing. I mentally knew where I should start and where I should end. All that came between was chronological.

Another unpublished book, called Monkey Madness, came about by setting up chapter names. I knew some of the events I wanted to include in this wacky, time travel, adventure chapter book of three boys who go through the picture frame of a famous painting into Paris. The writing came easy because I knew where I was going. A little research along the way added the necessary information for the time period.

Finally, I started work on my Charles Russell book that comes out this Spring. This non-fiction, art appreciation children's book needed a different format. I read many accounts of Russell's life and painting life. I chose which 12 pictures and one self-sculpture I wanted to use. I knew I'd approach each object the same as when I give art museum tours - questions to have the viewer look at the work, some tidbits of interest and a closing sentence that possibly led to the next object. Each object only needed about 200 words. Sounds easy but how do you get all the information across you want readers to learn when you have pages of notes! At any rate, the writing came easy once the "outline" was finished.

The follow-up book on Frederic Remington deployed the same method and the writing came easily. My outlines may not look like outlines but they worked for me.

I have learned that for me several methods work. However, the ones where I had a definite written plan worked the best.

How do you write? Do you research first or as you go? Do you have a method of note keeping you might share? How do you put together the plot and subplots? Do you make character sketches? When do you fact check? Do you use the same method/methods for writing short stories or articles, fiction or non-fiction?

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