Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Writing the Book You Want to Read

What is the one story idea you want to read more than any other? If only one plot could exist in all the world, what would you want it to look like? What book would truly be the very best book you could think of?

Is that the book you're writing?

I used to think about those questions years ago. I tried to come up with all the very best ideas and mash them together into a single plot. Generally the results were either derivative or nonsensical.

But then for a long time I forgot those big questions and followed the lure of Shiny New Ideas—a unique setting with unexplored consequences or a dream that captivated me and needed to be told. And these were good ideas, fun ideas. They were books I would have enjoyed reading had someone else written them.

There's nothing wrong with writing a good book, especially a book you love.

When I began to write The Never Silent, though, I went back to those questions I had ignored for so long. I added new questions, too, that would further define what I wanted to create. And then I constructed my new plot with intention, structuring each piece around my answers.

This is one way of writing a book. It's not the only way, and maybe not even the best way. But I really like how it's turning out.

At first, writing The Never Silent was like writing any other book. It was just as much of a challenge and still is.

Now I'm editing. I'm in the process of going through each scene to add in a bit more description. I'm having more fun than I probably have any right to, but for some reason I've always loved the early stages of editing.

There's more to it than that, though. As I was going through one of my scenes the other day I had an experience I have never had before while writing. For the very first time I felt that the book I was working on was THE book I wanted to read.

I don't know if that means other people will feel the same way. I don't know if this book is any better than my others or if it's the one that will finally be published.

What I do know is that I'm accomplishing something that's meaningful to me, and that is making all the difference.


  1. I've never quite believed in the "one book I'd want to read." There are books that leave a kind of slowly fading afterglow, an energizing intellectual stimulation that you want to share. But I've always felt that the plot/story had to be something I hadn't seen before to actually work.

    Anyway, I do find that my stories come alive for me in the editing process. Sometimes it's not every scene that works, but enough of them that makes me feel like I've written something really great. Unfortunately, it's the next hurdle that seems to be the hard one--finding one other person who thinks as much of your story as you do.

    Someday, we'll find audiences that appreciate our genius.

    1. For me the "one book" does exist, only it changes with each era of my life. That's... only as it should be I suppose.

      Yes, the books do come alive most in editing. That's when the characters really develop.

  2. That's a fascinating way of looking at constructing a book. I mean, asking yourself what kind of things you'd want to see, what kind of elements, then putting them together.

    I can see how it could go wrong. One time we did something like that in art class. The instructor asked what sort of model we wanted. We couldn't agree, so he broke down the questions. Head or bust or whole body? Young, middle-aged, old? Man or woman? Clothed or nude? And so on and so forth. We somehow ended up with a nude middle aged man's head, or something--anyway, the results weren't what people would have picked as a whole, so the sum of parts thing didn't quite work out there.

    B-U-T, I really want to try thinking like this about a book idea and see what I come up with. Just for fun. It sounds like a lovely exercise.

    1. Exactly! What you come up with might not be something you end up writing, but you may find yourself using pieces of it for later books.