More from Susan Issacs
Published: April 29, 2005
|Her process |
First, regular work hours, whether it's Monday and Thursday nights or all day Sunday or, as I do it, every morning, five days a week--six when I'm really going. And I work for about three hours. It's whatever works for you.
And you have to have the discipline, because if you wait for the muse to kind of whisper in your ear, you're going to find yourself on Social Security.
But also I make an outline. It's generally no more than 20 pages. It works for me. I couldn't do without an outline because I'd be terrified: Suddenly the protagonist is in wartime Berlin and a person she thought was a friend has betrayed her, and then I say, "Oh, my God, what else?" So, at least if I have an outline, it's a comfort to me. I may ignore it, or my character may say, "I'm not going to do that," but it helps.
The other part of my process is having one benevolent reader--one person who is, number one, smart about fiction (it doesn't have to be another writer necessarily), and also someone who you know means you well.
I think if you show your writing to five friends, you're going to get five different opinions. And what happens then is you begin to write to satisfy those criticisms. And so what you're doing is you're starting to lose the sound of the voice you have in order to respond to Mary and John and Maggie and all those people.
I think especially at the beginning [for new writers], but even now, if someone says, "Boy, is that drivel" or "I'm sorry, I'm not convinced by the character," you stop the process, and you're being stopped sometimes by a genuine criticism but also sometimes by people who don't mean to help you as much as you think they do.
On using speech-recognition software in her writing
First of all, you have to train the speech software so that it understands your voice and the way you pronounce and, in my case, the New York accent--which, frankly, it's not so crazy about.
And then I put on my headphones with a mike and I start talking. It's really like typing in that I don't look at it word for word as it comes out.
For me, the important thing has always been getting from brain to print as fast as I can so I can keep up with my own thoughts. And also not getting distracted.
So it's turning it into words on the page, and then I edit it on screen, and then I print it out and edit it and print it out and re-edit it, and so on and so forth.
For me, it's great; for someone else, the sound of their own voice could be inhibiting. Some people need to express themselves at a more leisurely pace. I think if you're trying your first novel, don't use an unfamiliar technique [like this].