Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Brain and My Book

by Leann

The stages of writing a novel involve what I call "brain switching." First, when I create a plot, I am working very hard. This stage pulls on all aspects of my thought process. I have to be logical, but creative. It's probably one of the more difficult aspects of writing and yet for me, I need a blueprint, an outline, a synopsis. Whatever you want to call it, I need it. It is a "whole brain" activity.

The fun starts next. This, for me, is all my right brain at work--the beginning of making something out of nothing. Chapter one! I love chapter one. But there are starts and stops because as I am submerged in my fantasy world, suddenly I run smack dab into reality. I hit a bump that switches me to my left brain and completely stops the creative process. I have written a scene that includes something I know little or nothing about. Example: a character needs a lawyer and cannot afford one. You'd think they'd get a public defender, right? If the book is set in Harris County, Texas, however, this would not be true. They have a different set-up. There is no public defender's office. It's research time and, for me, I cannot move forward until I know I've gotten it right. This also means that to switch back to my creative right brain isn't so easy. Eventually, I can move forward again, thought there will be more starts and stops.

Once a book is finished, it's time to rewrite. Also very fun for me. I get a chance to make it better, enrich the scenery and the characters. This is all right brain. Same with the rewrite suggestions I receive from my editor. Sometimes these are challenging but I really enjoy this part of the process. But once my editor has sent the manuscript on for copy edits, the fun comes to screeching halt. It's not creative and takes intense concentration to go over all the mistakes and inconsistencies--and there are always mistakes and inconsistencies. I am now making the book  TECHNICALLY better. But it's not creative. It's very left brain.

The worst part of finishing, for me, are what are called page proofs. I receive a copy of my book as it will is formatted to appear on the page (in a PDF file, however). The problem with page proofs is that somebody--a human being I do not know--has re-typed my book. And often, they have made mistakes in re-typing. They may have also typed some mistakes of my own that the copy editor and I previously did not pick up on. This is so far into my left brain I almost want to jump out of my skin. I intensely dislike this part of the process while knowing it is necessary. Unfortunately with my current book, the page proofs contained changes in style that I did not like and had not approved.

This is a new bump in the road for me. Never happened before. By this time in the process I am so ready to let go of the book, to send it out into the world, and now, I am having trouble letting go. Even though the argument about style is over and the book is going to production, I'm still troubled and upset by having to fight for tiny changes that should be no big deal. Where does that feeling belong? Left brain? Right brain? I don't know. What it tells me, though, is that this book means a lot to me, maybe more than others. I guess those are the books we want to be perfect--and there is no such thing.

Does your job involve "brain switching?" Can you relate? Or have I totally confused everyone?


Lori Cimino said...

My job is ALL left brain. Which is probably why my downtime involves so much right brain.

really wanting to know what book you are referring to. looking forward to the new cats in trouble coming out soon

Leann Sweeney said...

The latest Cats in Trouble, Lori, coming in May!

Jeannie D. said...

I am a book dealer, so it is all left brain. I love reading about how different author's go about the writing process. It is fascinating to me. Can not wait for the new Cats in Trouble. Just finished Cat, the wife, and the weapon. Love this series!

Leann Sweeney said...

Thanks Jeannie! (and there's a Jeannie in the new book!)

Jeannie D. said...

That is so awesome! Now I really can't wait!