Please welcome guest Katharine Britton, author of three novels: Her Sister’s Shadow, Little Island, and Vanishing Time (2016). Katharine has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. Her screenplay, Goodbye Don’t Mean Gone, on which Vanishing Time was based, was a Moondance Film Festival winner and a finalist in the New England Women in Film and Television contest.
When not at her desk, Katharine can be found feeding baby birds at a local wild bird rehabilitation center, or in her Norwich garden waging a non-toxic war against the slugs, snails, deer, woodchucks, chipmunks, moles, voles, and beetles with whom she shares her yard. Katharine’s defense consists mainly of hand wringing after-the-fact.
On the Road to a Rough Draft: If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, Any Road Will Do
I love road trips. This is partly because air travel is such a chore, but also because I enjoy the planning process. I always know where I’m starting, of course, and where I’m going to end. Then I pour over maps, measure distances, and look for interesting stopping points to determine the best route. Being directionally challenged, I’m a big fan of Google Maps. I approach rough drafts the same way.
Some writers proudly claim to have no idea where their story will end until they get there. Directionless but undaunted, they write a first line, and then a second, trusting their characters to get them to the finish line. I stand in awe. As when I travel, I require both a beginning image and a final image for my stories. My characters get some say in the route we take to get there, and I’m flexible about who gets to come along on the journey, but the adage, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do” holds altogether too much uncertainty for me.
Each manuscript starts with a motivation: some purpose for this virtual (and rather long) journey. It could be an image that moved me, a tale recounted by a friend, a scene witnessed, a question I want answered. Then I muse. I don’t know if I have a muse, but I definitely am a “muser.” On long walks I imagine the story around that image, scene, quotation or question. This is both freeing and terrifically anxiety producing. Freeing because nothing is committed to paper. The story is as ephemeral as the weather. Anxiety producing because nothing is committed to paper: What if I forget all those pivotal plot points and all that riveting dialogue before I get back from my walk? [Read more…]