Friday, June 28, 2013

Mind-Writing (and the Warm Bodies sequel)

When I write a novel, I write it twice. The first time, it's in my head. I call it mind-writing. I walk around, run around, sit around, I listen to music and look at pretty things and just think my brains out. I solidify what the story is and how I'm going tell it, and then I write it down in quick, loose sketches. When I'm finished, I have an outline of every scene in the book. Not an outline like the utterly useless kind they taught you in school.


I. Useless
   A. Fucking
   B. Bullshit
        1. Seriously

It's more like a storyboard. You know, those comic-book sketches that eventually become movies? I describe everything that happens and explore the mood and atmosphere and ideas of every scene without stopping to actually "perform" the scenes with prose. What I end up with is essentially the book itself, as written by an idiot.

The second time I write the book is when I take these storyboards and convert them into actual prose. Writing prose is hard. It takes a lot of care to craft a good sentence, even more to connect that sentence to another one, even more to transition from one paragraph to the next, and a whole hell of a lot more to tune the flow of dramatic tension so that each chapter builds into the next all the way to the end. You've probably heard of "pacing." It's hard. So is rhythm, emotion, and thematic coherency. All this stuff is hard even when you know exactly what happens in each scene, so imagine doing all these things WHILE making up the story. Even though I always know the basic elements of a story long before I start working on it--especially in the case of a sequel--there is still a lot of detail to fill in, connecting point A to point B, and doing that and writing the prose at the same time is like walking off a cliff and then trying to build a bridge under you. Aka, suicide.

Mind-writing the story before type-writing it frees me up to focus on the prose and makes the whole mountainous undertaking slightly more approachable.

Anyway, this is my long-winded, faux-academic way of telling you that I started writing the sequel to Warm Bodies today. For the last 8 months, since the day I decided I was going to do a sequel, I have been fiercely mind-writing it. (Well, that and finishing up the prequel novella, The New Hunger--which by the way, you are required to read if you want to understand the sequel.) In many ways, mind-writing is the hardest part. It requires the most sheer creative muscle, ripping ideas and images and emotions out of thin air, and it's by far the most perilous, because you can FAIL. You can't truly fail at writing itself; you can just keep editing and revising forever until it's as good as it can possibly be. But you CAN fail to come up with a good story. You can drive your ideas into an inescapable dead-end and give up in despair. That's a very real danger, so the fact that I made it all the way to the end is actually the biggest news I'll have for you until I announce a publication date.

I finished mind-writing last week, every scene from epigraph to epilogue, and after taking a few days to wipe the tears out of my eyes and regather my courage, I'm now diving into the main event.  I wrote the opening scene this morning. It's pretty good. So, please smash a champagne bottle against my hull and toss your hats in the air. This ship is launched.

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