Garth Nix is the author of one of my favorite trilogies (the Abhorsen books) and he has written a concise, lucid, intelligent summary of his writing process. I recognize every stage that he talks about, and I think most writers will.
“A week, a month or even years after that initial ‘small vision’ I will usually sit down and try and work out the bare bones of the story and how I am going to tell it. I look back at the notes I’ve taken and I dredge up all the salient points I’ve been thinking about it. Then I sit down and write a chapter outline. This is quite a simple affair. I write a paragraph for each chapter, describing what happens.
I sometimes wonder why I bother to do this, as my chapter outlines rarely bear any close resemblance to the finished book. I’ve usually departed from the outline within a few chapters and by the time I’m halfway through a novel there is often almost no correlation between the outline and the actual story.
In retrospect, this chapter outlining serves two purposes. One is that it makes me think about the overall structure of the novel, which I think kickstarts some subconscious process that will continue through the writing, monitoring the narrative structure. The second purpose is that it serves as a psychological prop. If I have a chapter outline, I presume I know where I’m going, even when I don’t really. In this sense the chapter outline is like a very out-of-date map. Most of it is wrong, but there will be some landmarks on it. So if I get terribly lost in my book, I can always go back to the outline and though most of it will be wrong, I might see some important plot point or notes for a character that will help me get back on the narrative road.”
Every once in a while you discover a new blog that is its own reward. Teetering Bulb is such a site. Illustrations that capture everything I love about illustration and lots that I love about fairy tales. Maybe one day I’ll get rich and commission them to illustrate stories for me. (sigh) One can dream …
If you don’t know who Baba Yaga is, you’re missing out on one of the great characters in fairy tale history. She’s dark and light, she’s good and evil. She lives in a little cottage that stinks of carrion and the cottage runs around on big, creepy chicken feet when she feels like a change of venue. The keyhole to her front door is a mouth filled with sharp teeth. She takes a merciless measure of the characters she encounters and acts accordingly.
I love Baba Yaga.
So it is with great delight that I discovered this plush version of Baba Yaga’s chicken-legged house by Melissa Sue Stanley on sale at Etsy.