Sunday, October 11, 2015

Guest post - Jane Yolen - Development in a novel

Another rambling thought (about blocking out novels this time) from Jane Yolen:

A thought about writing novels. I reworked chapter 15 of my current novel and in the process added 300 words, mostly to define and redefine characters. It's a travel chapter, not much plot, really at base simply getting us from there to here. But a necessary trip for three reasons: setting up setting, plot, tension. And along the way I realize the last part of the chapter was really the beginning of the next chapter.
I find with novels (I still consider myself a novice, though I have written over 60 of them!) that I have to re-learn how to write them each time I start a new one. And what did I learn today?
1.Unlike picture books and poetry where compression is the guide, novels need to breathe, need specificity to make them live. What kind of trees, what color of eyes, is this spring or winter and what makes the difference?
2. Yet adding for the sake of bulk is not what is needed. Again, specificity is key. But also threading in what came before. I will have to go back and thread in a whole lot of stuff. This draft is more about getting the story told, start to finish. The next draft I will take careful notes about my characters who I have learned a lot about during this draft: what they wear, look like, facial tics, what they know (or don't know). What has someone said before, and do I repeat it too often or not enough? Do I make reference to it? Is it key to their development.
3. In fact development is probably the most useful concept in writing a novel. In poems metaphor and the lyrical line quickly follow compression in importance. In picture books one has to always be aware that the book needs to be visual at its core, else what can an illustrator draw? But novels are all about development--plot development, character development, philosophical development/sub=textual development.
Have I told you how I hate to plot?????

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