Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Creative Writing 101

Okay, so now that I've admitted to actually writing, I've gotten some writing-related questions. This is the thing I'm supposed to know about (even though I think my real expertise is in celebrity gossip, because I have no shame. Did I watch 'the Fabulous Life of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline' last night? Yes, I did. I found out that the difference between their wardrobes and truck drivers' wardrobes, is that theirs cost $7,000).

But, back to writing. A faithful blog reader, Terri B. writes:

"...The aspiring writer in me has questions. And since you are my idol... :o)
Do you become attached to your characters, making it hard to end the story? About how many pages long is your first draft usually?"

First off, I'm not sure how I'm going to handle being someone's idol (it's a lot of pressure), but that being said...flattery, my dear, will get you everywhere, which in this case means being the subject of a blog entry.

Do I get attached to my characters? I do, sometimes. I was very attached to Jane, the main character of "Pink Slip Party". But most of the time, by the time I've spent nearly a year living inside a character's head, I'm usually pretty tired of them. It's like a roommate that simply has no concept of personal boundaries. After awhile, you just want a little quiet time. I'll love them again after a few months' break, but I definitely need the break.

In terms of the length of a draft, it varies quite a bit. I wish I was like J.K. Rowling, who just seems to be able to write longer and longer with little effort. I suspect her next book will be 1500 pages long, but I've found my books getting shorter. My first "I Do" draft came in about 325 pages, and "Pink Slip Party" had about 290, and then "Dixieland Sushi" had about 270. At this rate, "I Did (But I Wouldn't Now)" is going to be a short story.

The length of drafts really varies depending on the pace of your story and what you're trying to accomplish. Each story has its own perfect length, it's just finding it that can be difficult. Sometimes this means flushing out the story with more pages, and sometimes it means taking a weed whacker to your prose because it's simply too long.

When I was writing "I Do" I would celebrate after writing every chapter, because every time I added a page, it became The Longest Thing I'd Ever Written. My college thesis was about 45 pages, so after I passed that mark, I would stack each new chapter on top of the last on my coffee table and just stare at it. I guess it's sort of like what marathon runners feel like when they keep breaking new distance records, except that I didn't have to sweat or lose control of my bodily functions. It's one of the many reasons I write for a living and don't run.


Terri B said...

Thank you for the information. It helps me to know that you sometimes need a break from your characters as well. I guess the key is to not break FOREVER. And make no mistake about it, you are very inspiring. I attended a writing seminar not long ago and (as was expected of me) bought the speaker's book. But after standing in line for 10 minutes, I asked him to write something inspiring and he wrote "Just write". I was like, "That's it?" You are certainly doing for me what that guy didn't. I KNOW I need to "just write" but sometimes it's not that simple. So thanks for sharing your expertise!

Dana Tanamachi said...

Girl, there's no shame in watching a good episode of "The Fabulous Life of..." Though, I will never publicly admit to how many of them I've actually seen-- and I may or may not have enjoyed them *cough.* Anyway, this is a great blog, I've got your link on my site now- which by the way had it's grand opening tonight. Yes, it's true after a year of procrastination I have finally put it to good use (besides the China blog). I'm just worried that I'll become addicted to blogging-- I had a xanga for about 3 months and I... shall we say "exterminated" it 2 weeks ago due to the fact that the words "Xanga" and "Idolatry" became synonymous in my vocabulary. Ouch. Peace out.

Jessica said...

First can I just say you truly are an amazing writer. I have all of your books and read them all the time! Your web page is awesome and I love the blog. It's always so funny. Thank you for being such an inspiration.

Cara Lockwood said...

Hi Jessica!

Thank you so much for writing. Would you mind if I kept you on call for any of my low-self-esteem moments? You made my day. Thanks so much.

All best,

Samantha M said...

After buying, reading, and passing around your books, my friends and I have developed a small following for your books. Oi. Ok that sounded better in my head. Long story short, we think you're fab. Moving on...
For as long as I can remember I've wanted to write a really great book. The only problem is, I get really weirded out by people reading what I write. I was curious if that's just some weird quirk I have, or if that's common?
Annnnd last but not least, the movie version of "I Do" didn't make it to us Canadians: are you aware of any ways I can get my hands on a copy of it?

Ok, babble complete.
Can't wait til the next book!


Cara Lockwood said...

Hi Sam!

Heartfelt thanks to you and your posse! I talk more about the weirdness of having other people read your writing in today's post, but about "I Do (But I Don't)" - the movie DVD is available from Amazon.

I think it's a crime it didn't show in Canada! It was filmed in Montreal, even though they say in the movie it's set in Chicago. Go figure.

Thanks again and good luck with your writing.

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