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This blog was featured on 04/16/2018
Process & Inspiration - Thinking Beyond The Edge of the Puzzle
Contributor
Written by
Kari Bovee
April 2018
Contributor
Written by
Kari Bovee
April 2018

Process is one of the things I love to talk about with other writers. I love to hear about what makes them tick, how they get their stories down on paper or on the computer screen. Some writers are pantsers; they sit down and let their fingers fly, telling those stories by the seat of their pants. Others are plotters, with pages and pages of scenes, dialogues, outlines, beginnings, and endings. I fall somewhere in between. I like to think of myself as a puzzler. I start with a plan or an outline–the frame of the puzzle–and then I add the pieces, usually in a linear fashion. I start with the outer frame and then work from the top down, filling in the pieces.

Like many other writers, I feel called to this craft. I find inspiration nearly every day, and long to put that inspiration into a framework and create a story about that subject or person that has moved me. I can be inspired by something someone says, or something I’ve read, or something I have discovered on the internet. BBC and PBS television shows inspire me all the time. Novels, movies, and documentaries often speak to me and give me ideas for other stories. My horses inspire me with their majesty, beauty, and intelligence—how they live in nature and captivity. How they adjust to every situation.

I’m inspired by real-life characters from the past. I love to learn about them and then breathe new life into them. I am particularly drawn to smart, strong women who were mavericks of their time. I like working within the confines of their history, but also to expand on that history and imagine how they thought or felt, and what could have happened to them. After all, the main premise of any kind of fiction is that cosmic question, what if?

I’m also inspired by certain periods in history, like the Elizabethan period, and the late 1800’s and early 20th century. I’ve always thought I should have been born in a different era. I like to fantasize what my life would be during those times. I’ve traveled to many places around the world, and in a few of those places, I have had an intense, visceral, almost spiritual connection with my surroundings. It could be my overactive imagination, or maybe, I wonder—did I really live in those times and places in a past life? It’s all a part of that other cosmic question, who are we?

When inspiration is bursting from within me, waiting to get out, I begin the process of creation. I often take two to three months to research a historical person, place or event. Sometimes, I’ve even been lucky enough to book a trip to where my story will take place, and get lost in its culture, architecture, and ambiance.

Once I have a character and setting in mind, the story starts to take form. I like to use a four-act structure as taught by Larry Brooks and Alexandra Sokoloff. Once I figure out vital story components such as the set-up, the response, the attack, and then the resolution, I figure out the plot points and then outline scenes. Once I map out all the scenes in the story, I sit down to write. Here’s where the puzzler part comes in. Often, as I write, my characters will say or do something I never expected–which can change the storyline. If this happens (and I LOVE it when it does) I have to redesign the puzzle pieces to fit into the new puzzle. 

Once I have put the last piece of the puzzle in place, I walk away from it. Sometimes, I don’t look at it for weeks, months, maybe a year–or several–as it’s been for a few of my manuscripts.I am usually working on more than one story at a time, so the separation isn’t devastating. I move onto the next puzzle for a while. I find this keeps me fresh, and helps me to grow and develop as a writer. 

Once I am ready to go back to my story, I begin the revision process. After a read-through, I like to brainstorm with my critique partners to make sure my story is cohesive and fluid. Often, I also share my work with non-writers because they can offer different insights. It’s good to know what a reader wants and expects from the story, what they like and don’t like, and how the story makes sense to them.

After several revisions, when I feel the manuscript is ready, I then hire a professional editor. Sometimes I will use a developmental editor to make sure I have all the necessary elements of the story in place, but mostly I use a line editor to help with grammar and punctuation. After looking at the manuscript for such a long time, it’s hard to see it anymore, and I need a fresh and objective set of eyes.

And then, I celebrate! No matter the outcome of publication or not, sales or not—I’ve created a world of my own making. I’ve put myself in another’s skin, lived through them, experienced a piece of their life, whether real or imagined, and it makes all the toil and effort worthwhile. I’ve created something beyond the edge of the puzzle, something that will live forever—even if it ends up back in the box.

 

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