Saturday, January 4, 2014

'The Write Tools' #43 - Kate Forsyth

Welcome to another edition of ‘The Write Tools’: a blog series featuring authors, artists and their favourite tools.

Today's guest is novelist and poet Kate Forsyth. Kate is the award-winning author of over twenty books, from adult and YA novels, to children's picture books. Her novel Bitter Greens was nominated for a Norma K. Hemming Award, the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy  Fiction, and a Ditmar Award. Her most recent novel is The Wild Girl. She is now working on her next novel.

Whenever I begin daydreaming about a new novel, I buy a notebook.

Sometimes I search everywhere for the perfect notebook. Other times, I’ll be impatient and grab one from the local stationary store. If I do this, then I’ll make a cover for it. I’ll search out a photo that speaks to me and print it out and stick it on the cover. As you can see, it can get very tattered.

Wild Girl notebook

The Wild Girl is a very big and complicated book. It was a two notebook novel. So was Bitter Greens. Most novels, though, only need a single notebook.

Early outline
I begin by writing a brief outline of the book and what I think it’s about.

I stick photos and maps and drawings in my notebook. I scribble down questions, ideas, timelines, research notes, lists of things to do, and problems to be solved. I draw myself narrative arcs, and think about where to put scenes for maximum impact. I play with the shape and structure of the novel. If I jot down a thought to myself on a sticky-note, or a paper napkin, or an old receipt, that gets stuck into the book too.   

Portrait of Dortchen
It’s not a pretty notebook. It’s a chronological record of ideas and inspiration. Sometimes I doodle in it. Sometimes my writing is indecipherable and my sketches appallingly bad. It doesn’t matter. Everything is recorded. 

I usually put the date and often the time in the top of the page. This way I know I began thinking about The Wild Girl on 1/2/08. I wrote the first draft of the first line on 26/8/11 – a considerable time later. I spend a long time thinking about my novels before I begin to write them. I planned the first chapter on 12/10/11. In July 2012, I wrote a list of problems to be fixed in the editing stage. I began to edit the book at 11am on 13/11/12. 

Once I begin writing, I keep a record of my word count too. One of my pages tells me that I began writing at 3am on 1/5/12 and wrote 1,700 words by 5.40am (I often can’t sleep towards the end of a book). 

I’ll also record where I am if I’m away from home. So on 20/4/12 I was in Sababurg in Germany, and had written 104,426 words in total. That day I wrote 8 pages in my notebook; the next day I pushed my word count to 107,042.

Why do I do this? I find it interesting. I like to record every step in the creative process. I like to imagine some future scholar blowing off the dust on this notebook and finding my process as fascinating as I do. My notebooks are paired with my diaries, in which I record my thoughts and feelings and discoveries. One is the key to the other. 

The first line of Wild Girl
Whenever I am stuck, or stymied, I can go back through my notebook and read my notes, and find new inspiration. I can keep track of what needs to be done, and draw up lists for myself. I can see the whole messy process of writing a book, from the first idea to the last word. I can remind myself that, when I first starting writing a novel, I never really know where I am going or what amazing serendipitous discoveries are yet to be made. 

When I’m on tour, I keep my notebook in the hotel safe (even if that means there is no room for my laptop).

When I go on holiday, or on a research trip, it travels with me (which helps explain why it gets so tattered).

Then, when I’m finished writing and editing the novel, it gets put away.

And I will go in search of a new notebook, filled with excitement and joy at the infinite possibilities presented by its pure white pages.

1 comment:

JessicaFrancis said...

Thanks for sharing this. I would so love to leaf through these notebooks - a fascinating insight into the mind of a creative genius.