04 December 2008

Snatch and Romance

It's not what you think! Several years ago, I wrote a great article for my local RWA chapter newsletter, and I thought I'd reprint it for the readers here since it's pretty relevant to my current time management issues.


Have you ever been cuddled in bed, pondering the intricacies of romance, and been hit by the most wonderful notion that you just had to act upon right there and then?

Have you ever been at your day job, tallying reports or something incredibly boring, and had the frantic need to explore what it felt like to be swept into the lusty embrace of an 1880s cowboy?

Have you ever been in the middle of washing vegetables, maybe cucumbers or tomatoes, and been struck by an inspiration of the sexual variety?

Have you ever been chatting with a pal about writer’s block or love scenes and gotten the sudden urge for privacy so you could take care of a pressing romantic issue?

If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, then you, too, have indulged in “snatch” — snatching some writing time for yourself out of the morass of daily living, that is.

A companion technique to the highly effective Club 100, a writing group established by author Beth Pattillo, “snatch” involves scribbling down whatever story ideas pop into your head, even if they’re chronologically out of whack or in an abbreviated form. When you dream it up, write it down immediately, before it drifts away in the daily grind of meals, wheels and deals.

This includes new story ideas, where a single snatch could turn into pages and pages of brainstorming, but I'm going to focus more on notions about where your current novel might be headed.

Say you get an image of your hero and heroine arguing over whether to drive or fly to Vegas as they rush to marry in time to beat the clock on the reality television program they’re involved in. Hey, hush up, you, crazier books have been written!

My point is, if you conceive that image, write it down! It may get axed in the completed novel. They may get booted out of “Survivor: Wedding” before they reach the final two and have no need to rush to Vegas. Then again, it may end up being one of the funniest scenes you’ve ever written, not to mention inspire you to power through the next three chapters because you know where in the plot that scene takes place and what you have to do to get there.

Snatch works for authors who plot in advance as well as those who write into the mist. For ones who plot in advance, sure, they’ve got the plot down, but not the passion. Not the details. As passionate, funny, or perfect images occur to them, they can record those before they lose the flavor and assemble the pieces when the time comes. (If they're extremely focused writers who power through a whole manuscript in a matter of weeks because of their extensive pre-plotting, well, they don’t need any help and probably aren’t reading how-to articles, anyway!)

For ones who write into the mist, sometimes not knowing what happens next can be liberating but in extreme cases it can cause writer’s block. If you have a great scene for the future of your newly acquainted couple, go ahead and write it. You can fill in the blanks with other great scenes until you get there. Even if the scene is just bare bones dialogue, write it down. Even if it’s just a kiss, a funny expression, or a telling realization, put it on paper (or in your computer). Write yourself notes in the little notebook in your purse or the larger one beside your bed. If you drive a lot, get a cheap tape recorder and talk at it.

You will hopefully discover it frees your muse when you allow your brain to plot ahead a little. As you continue to work your way through the body of the novel, plug your scribbles and snatches into the narrative and build on them. You may get entire chapters in the blink of an eye with the addition of transitions and layering for the senses.

What I’ve found is that I trail off about two-thirds of the way through my manuscripts. If I bull through with my eyes closed, it’s torturous, but if I vault ahead to the grand finale, it’s suddenly easier to complete chapters 17 through 22. Think of it as giving yourself points on a map to drive towards — or veer away from entirely, should the muse strike you. But at least it will be the muse striking you and you won’t be striking yourself in the forehead because your brain isn’t working and you can’t write.

Some authors might fear that if they write the “good parts” first, the rest will be boring and never make it to the screen. Well, that is a concern, but nobody said writing a whole book was effortless, and a successful writer will tell you all manuscripts are full of sections that are exciting to write as well as sections that are less so.

One aspiring author I know says she forbids herself to polish her snatches after she writes them down so that the excitement doesn’t fade and she still has something to look forward to. And too, not all strategies will work for all authors.

Another writer I know who describes herself as midway between a plotter and a “pantser”, told me that writing out of sequence has done wonders for her productivity. She thinks it keeps her jazzed about her story because she gets to write what is inspiring her NOW instead of holding herself back to what's next in the plot.

As with Club 100, writing a snatch or two every day will keep your story fresh in your memory and easier to slip into each time you have access to a keyboard, an AlphaSmart (which is very handy for snatches), or a pen and paper. It’s like all that algebra we learned in high school or college. If you don’t use it, you’ll forget it, so use it every day. Snatch away!


Jody Wallace
A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH--In Print, Samhain Publishing
LIAM'S GOLD--In Electrons, Samhain Publishing
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