A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

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Julie Moffet . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Writing Like a Builder (or Building Like a Writer)

When I’m not writing, I like to build things. Two years ago, my wife, Zoe Archer/Eva Leigh, and I moved into a house, opening up a new canvas of possibilities for projects. During this time, I’ve discovered how closely related my writing process and my building process is.

I’m a plotter. Especially in romantic suspense, I like to know where I’m headed so I can plan out the beats, transitions and pace through to the end. The same goes with building projects. After I find the inspiration (usually an area of the house in need of improvement or utility), I sit down and sketch out what it is I want to build. These sketches change and evolve as I think about the space and what construction techniques I’m capable of.

Once the plan is in place, I get down to the real plotting. This is where the measuring takes place. Cut lists are created so I know all the pieces I’ll need before starting. That’s what I like in the writing, too. If I have enough detail in the outline, then when I sit down to writing, I can move more easily into the words, knowing I’ve already done the work of figuring out the how and why of the scene.

But that’s not to say that everything always works out as planned. Once a piece of furniture is starting to be built, some of the dimensions change, and the cutlist has to be altered. Or the need for additional supports reveals itself and those have to be added. The same happens in the books. Often, the voice of the piece doesn’t get settled until I’m through the first two or three chapters, and I have to go back and adjust those early sections to fit. Or the characters move faster or slower through their emotional arcs than expected and their trajectories have to be altered.

That’s why I like to plan, but with enough room for the process to develop. If every angle is welded together from the start, then the elements will end up breaking, rather than flexing as the piece evolves.

In the furniture, like the writing, completing the first pass doesn’t mean it’s done. There’s still editing. It might be completed with an angle grinder rather than a red pencil, but it’s still the same idea of smoothing over rough transitions or anything else someone might get caught on. Then there’s the polishing, sometimes literally. The little details make the piece feel finished. Often, these are invisible touches. In the books, the reader won’t necessarily know how you moved their emotions, but your inspiration, work and revision is what got them there.

Here’s a short video to explain my process:

So what about you? Do you have any non-writing activities that parallel that process? Or is there something you do because it accesses a completely different part of your brain than writing?


Anne Marie Becker said...

Love the post and the video, Nico! Looks like you were having a lot of fun. :D

I've thought often about how creative processes can be similar, no matter what the artistic creation. I sometimes liken my writing process to baking because I seem to start with a lump of dough (the first few scenes that come to me, and sometimes a character sketch or two) and then rolling it out is similar to lengthening those scenes, adding bits and pieces to develop the "flavor." I also have done oil painting in the past, and thought about how layering the hues, shading the objects and bringing out depth is similar to developing the words in scenes to create a lovely picture.

jean harrington said...

Clever video, Nico. Enjoyed all the apt analogies--the sawing, the chopping, the nailing, the hot on-fire wiring, the polishing. Very entertaining, and in the final analysis, isn't that what fiction is all about?

Cathy Perkins said...

Nice to meet another planner!

I have several creative outlets other than writing. The closest analogy to your building is creating fused glass pieces. The creative part includes designing the piece, deciding colors, texture retention, fusing technique to create the desired form. Decisions about the functional pieces vs purely decorative. The intended recipient. The actual assembly requires precise cuts and attention to air corridors and technical elements that would bore most people. The "finished" product often need polishing to remove rough edges. But at the end, it's satisfying to make a visually appealing item - and give it away. :)

Toni Anderson said...

Love it. I've always thought of it as weaving. I'm a plotter but I'm always going back to the design stage, at least for the first part of the book. I just find the design alters as I write. I need the extra color thread. Love the video!

Nico Rosso said...

Thanks for adding your other creative endeavors! I like baking as well, Anne Marie, and definitely feel the relationship to writing - especially the necessity for patience with the process. Glad you liked the analogies, Jean, they came together pretty seamlessly as I was working. Cathy, I had to look up fused glass, and it's beautiful stuff. Creating something as a gift really gives it a special purpose. I like the weaving metaphor, Toni, it captures how interrelated all the pieces of a book are.

Rita said...

Thnaks for sharing. I feel all creative acts are linked. Sewing, sketching, painting, gardening.

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