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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Lindsay Townsend

What to put in and what to leave out. How I do it.

1. I decide what fiction I'm writing.

(a.) Short story, novella or novel

(b) I try to decide what genre it is.

2. I find it vital to know the conventions of the genre I choose to write in. Obviously I know I can defy these conventions but how far I can do so depends on how well I know the market and how confident I feel as a writer.

3. Before composing a scene I decide:

(a) Whose viewpoint the scene is from. That will affect what I put in, or leave out. (If my viewpoint character is blind, for example.)

(b) What the function of the scene is - How does it progress the story? What will it reveal of character, plot or both? Is it there as a subplot? Or as a contrasting item?

(c) The mood of the scene.

4. Before I begin to write, I jot down what the emotion of the scene is, plus its purpose. I try to keep that in mind at all times.

5. I try to be relevant - Hemingway's adage about not mentioning the gun on the wall unless someone is going to use it. I like to indulge in the telling detail. I know that I should control the description, not vice versa. Sometimes I write in a rush - I get the scene down and then shape.

6. Later, I revise!


Savanna Kougar said...

Wow, Lindsay, you're much more organized than I am.
The current WIP I'm writing, I do decide each chapter what viewpoint it will be in... actually, my heroine and heroes take turns in this story... but, that's about it as far as structure.

Linda Banche said...

I'm with Savanna. I write something and then I go back and rewrite to put in all the stuff I left out.

But isn't it nice when the entire scene comes in a rush?

Linda Acaster said...

My writing is a pick & shovel job - with a nail file. By the time it is on the page that'll be about it, apart from polishing. Which is why 3 pages for a full day's work is good for me. (I'll never be a millionaire at this rate)

Good to hear how you do it, Lindsay.

StephB said...

Lindsay! I was like, "She's got it, she's got it!!" I do all of that - decided the size, so to speak, and I'm very delibrate about the scenes, picking the POV. And I love Hemingway's adage about don't mention it unless you're going to use it. I like to use an "economy of words" in that regard. Awesome post!


Bekki Lynn said...

I like hearing how others go about it. It sounds right, sounds easy, but when I do it and the characters get wind of it, I'm in for it.

My characters are always rebellious against me giving them a guide, so I stopped wasting my time.

I don't think giving them the lead is any easier or harder than plotting, but they do cause my heart to race when I think I see where they're going and don't so much like it. Like my sons, I think they do it to get a rise out of me.

Julia Barrett said...

I love Hemmingway's adage! Yes, if the gun has no relevance, don't mention it.

Megan Johns said...

I'm in awe of your organisation, Lindsay.
Being more of a "pantser" I tend to let my characters lead the way so there isn't a detailed plan to start with. It means lots of revision to tighten up afterwards.
As for Hemingway, I absolutely agree.
Interesting to read how you organise yourself.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Savanna and Linda - I think if a way of working 'works' for you, that's all that matters. There's no perfect way, just whatever you feel most comfortable with. This is a way that I find handy for me.

Hi Linda - I like to polish as I go along as well.

Hi Steph - I usually find that if a scene isn't working it's something to do with POV - that I've chosen the wrong POV for that moment. That's the great thing about writing - you can rework it.

Hi Bekki - your characters are full of life and zest, which is wonderful. If they rush away with you and from you, then it's like a parent with a child - you've given them life and sent them out into the world.

Hi Julia - I really like that quote from Hemmingway, too! And I agree - if it doesn't need to be there, should it be there?

Hi Megan - I admire that spontaneous way of working, it usually gives a wonderful dazzling freshness.

Thanks, as ever, to everyone for your amazing comments!

Maggie Toussaint said...

I enjoyed your list, Lindsay. Sometimes I find myself straying on what goes in and what shouldn't. Lucky for me, that's my muse at work telling me I'm going to need an oversize pepper mill on page 236.

Kelley said...

Hi Lindsay,

Great advice. I remember someone once telling me that if an author describes a pen in a scene, he wants the pen to be used to stab someone or else it annoys him. The guy must have got that from Hemmingway. LOL
I usually write a scene through a character's eyes and describe things that character would notice. A man (unless he is gay) won't notice a nice dress on a woman unless it shows off her body.

Danielle Thorne said...

Good point from Hemingway's quote. One of my pet peeves as a reader are scenes that have no bearing on the direction or pace of the story. Well said.