bookmark_borderGoldberg Variations as NaNoWriMo

I am now trying to identify elements of fiction that equate to harmonic progression as well as possibly key and form (matching the series of canons). Number of bars is likely not a big concern as it comes out of the repeated harmonic progression, meaning, retaining the chord progression requires the number and sequence of bars because you cannot extend or shorten one or more chords without destroying the balance and flow, and Bach is all about balance.

(The Goldberg post was going on and on through numerous revisions and additions over many days so I opted to split it into two posts. I started thinking about this in early October and am keen on working my way to the point of being able to execute it for this year’s NaNoWriMo project.)

The harmonic progression is not unlike the 12 bar blues that is the basis of many jazz, blues, and early rock and roll songs. Or the 32 bar A-A-B-A form of I Got Rhythm by George Gershwin, which is the other classic jazz form and chord progression. Like these, the Goldberg progression is strong, complete, malleable, and capable of supporting many melodic inventions.

But it is also subtle. In most theme and variations forms the theme is the melody and I’m not sure the individual variations are capable of standing on their own or being listened to sporadically the way the Goldberg variations are. A bus stop or particular table in a coffee shop might offer the variety of stories but would not be as subtle.

And might time of day be similar to key? There are only twelve keys and if you progress in a sequence (semi-tone or fourth) through all the keys you end up back at the beginning, just as moving through twenty four hours will take you back to the same time of day. The ancients did believe that each key had its own personality but that was before the development of well tempered tuning.

Bach was a proponent of the well tempered tuning system, so I suspect the stasis of key is more a function of technical ease for the performer and ease of adjustment for a dozing patron, and maybe to eliminate any idea of hierarchy or relationship between the variations that might otherwise be implied or interpreted. I think Bach might have liked to use more than one key but unless he did exactly one, two, or three in each of twelve keys there is the risk of implying a relationship between the variations that I think he did not want. And since he had already done all twelve keys twice (the two books of The Well Tempered Clavier) there was no need to go there again.

So for fiction, finding the equivalent of the key is less important than making sure there are no implied hierarchies or relationships between the stories. And maybe use some staid element to help negate such.

So what are elements of fiction that I could reuse? Plot; no. Plot is like melody, too identifiable. Characters? No, because then the reader will look for connection and development. Setting? Maybe, though that’s more identifiable than harmonic progression, meaning obvious. Unless there is a means of disguising it the way Bach uses different meters and composition techniques and textures. Emotion? Again, too strong and too easily identified and connected. I could use the ‘theme’ of grief, for example, but it would be too easy to see how each story is related and collectively it might be perceived to be some wider statement about it. The same applies to a concept, say ‘inequality’.

But maybe that’s not bad. I’m no Bach; I’m no master at the peak of his creative abilities, and really, what I’m after is material. A couple NaNoWriMos ago I ended up with two short stories and a character which I may still develop into a novel, as well as the start of what turned out to be a 22,000 word novella.

So I could use location or a concept, but location would have to be flexible for multiple stories and styles, and something that promotes action, else I risk constantly having to struggle with dialogue heavy talking heads. A gym is too limited in its action, a playground too limited in its users. An event location like an arena which might have sports, concerts, ceremonies or trade shows would have the flexibility. A large city park with sports areas, kids play areas, picnic tables, hiking trails, ponds might have enough variety, but then most stories would have to be set outdoors. Of course, something larger like a city or even small town is almost limitless.

Concept is probably automatically more flexible than location, but it would need to be 1) a concept with sufficient facets to allow multiple approaches, and 2) a concept I’d be happy living with for 30 days straight.

Another step removed from emotion -> concept might be an object; say, a cup, so every story has in it somewhere a cup. But that might be too subtle and artificial. However, because it could be subtle, then perhaps I could *add* it as well; every story uses the concept, *plus* has a cup. The cup becomes the key, (G major/minor) and the concept substitutes for the harmonic progression.

And what about time of day? That’s fairly plastic as well; all sorts of things can happen at the same time of day, or, I could cycle through different hours of the day. Or I could keep the time of day and change time zones.

Cycling time of day is interesting in that Bach specifically did *not* change key, but, I have 24 hours to work with and he only had 12 keys, plus he’d done 12 keys before. 24 is close to 30, and I don’t have to write them sequentially, I could be flexible, label the general time of day and figure out the specifics later. Especially if they are to be presented in sequence. And I probably need more help than Bach anyway. Time of day might be the equivalent of the series of canons, the only thing that connects the series.

And time of day is flexible; I don’t have to decide what specific time of day for most, and I don’t have to label them even in my own mind until I’m well into it and decide that it’s going to work for me.

So, we have:

  • concept,
  • and / or location,
  • object,
  • possibly time of day

Now, I need come up with potential concept, location, and object.

bookmark_borderGoldberg Variations

Long ago I wrote a paper for a music grad class comparing the two Glenn Gould recordings of the Goldberg Variations, written by J. S BachNowadays I listen to the 1981 release once in a while through a sleep app on my phone.

But it wasn’t until last night that I noticed the similarities between the Variations and my fiction writing exercise where I wrote the same scene with the same characters, the same motivation, the same location, and the same sequence of events, changing POV, proximity, attitude of the narrator, voice, and writing style.


The Goldberg Variations is an aria with 30 variations. All have the same bass line, chord progression and number of bars (like a jazz chart), and 27 are, like the aria, in the key of G major and 3 in G minor.

An artificial structure that one of the greatest composers turned into a work of art.

Each third variation is a canon—a composition technique using imitation and counterpoint. In each canon the second voice imitates at an interval one step higher than the previous canon, beginning at the unison (zero) in variation 3 until the ninth in variation 27. Other variations are in the style of dance forms from the period or familiar musical forms such as toccata and fughetta and French Overture.

The work is a significant accomplishment by one of the greatest composers at the peak of his powers (Bach lived 1685-1750, the variations were published in 1741), and the fourth and last in a series of publications that included the Italian Concerto and the French Overture. A work that has been referred to as “most ambitious and most important solo keyboard work written before Beethoven“.

All within a structure as restricted and repetitive as the writing exercise I did.


I’m not trying to compare myself with Bach but rather to look at what he did within his restrictions and to be inspired to do more with my own. I don’t think it’s possible to turn my collection of exercises into something that has any artistic value (beyond the possibility that, were I a writing master, I could create such a range of presentations that would inspire beginners).

Bach is a master of creativity: only two of the variations are reputed to have musical connection beyond the repeated structure. The variations change melody, meter, style, tempo (though that is performer interpretation; in Bach’s day tempos were not specified), level of keyboard difficulty, and largely mood, though many are rather joyous in tone, perhaps with the goal of helping Count Kaiserling, Goldberg’s employer, relax and sleep.

Each variation is a story unto itself, which would be useful if you drifted off and woke up again. But in my exercise, the restriction of the primary characters with the same motivations and personalities and the same events eliminates substantially different stories.

So is my exercise more the equivalent of different performances of any one piece? Wanda Landowska versus Angela Hewitt? Gould versus Gould? Me versus anyone who can actually play the piano? I think there is more variation than that: it’s not just the interpretation and execution that I was changing, there is POV and voice and tense and style.

The Goldberg Variations is more like a collection of flash fiction pieces, each complete in and of themselves. But if one were to try to construct a fiction/writing equivalent, these flashes would have some structural element that ties them together, and maybe more than one. Location, perhaps, is similar to musical structure; they could all take place at the same bus stop. And perhaps the bus, or maybe the bus is like the mode; present most of the time but not all, like the Goldberg is in G, mostly major, but three in minor.

But I don’t think you can restrict it to multiple renderings of the same incident. That’s what I was writing, and that’s more like trying to create different arrangements of one song: as a bossa nova, a waltz, a rap tune, a fugue, an uptempo jazz chart, an unorthodox version in 5/4 or 7/8, and so on.

You could use the same major characters, but the situation would have to change, it would be a series of events over time like a couple having breakfast. The problem (or advantage) of this would be the tendency to want the flashes to work together for some greater meaning, perhaps a progression reflecting the evolution of the relationship.

But that is not what the Goldberg is. The sequence is pleasing and has a structure of its own (the series of ascending canons in every third variation) but the later canons do not develop the earlier canons. Each variation can stand alone, like Bach’s 20 children. So perhaps the bus stop, with the bus present often, but different characters, different times of day, different weather, different events, each flash complete by itself, so if you fall asleep and miss a few, you won’t be lost when you pick it up again.


Because my objective with the exercise was to force myself to find different voices and styles, it does seem to be more like multiple arrangements of the same composition, so maybe it’s not as similar to the Goldberg as I originally thought.

But maybe this can make for a good NaNoWriMo structure; to use the same location and a few other similar structural elements and write 30 short stories, one for each day of November.

bookmark_borderNaNoWriMo 2015

I had some difficulty with NaNoWriMo this year.

I came up with a theme, imagined characters, devised a situation and started writing. Seven days later I had just over the 11,670 target words for the seventh day of November, but with the exception of two or three moments the story wasn’t moving me and I was not happy with the quality of the prose. Having completed three NaNoWriMo novels in six previous years I saw no value in repeating the experience of finishing a novel just to say I had done so, especially if I was unhappy with the result.

I decided to experiment.

I decided I would start a new story each day. I kept the NaNo target of 1,667 total words per day, but the word count could come from the new story or from additions to stories from the previous days. I often write to prompts— is a favorite source for ideas—so writing new each day was not unusual but most of that exercise writing is in the 100-400 word range, far short of NaNo requirments.

So that’s one thing I’ve had to experience; pushing myself past that single moment, the opening scene, and into a second and a third moment. It’s not easy. First, there is the creative block in generating material connected with the first moment. Then there is the internal editor that worries and rejects ideas for fear of going down a dead end or making a wrong turn that hurts the story worse than just stopping it in its tracks. On top of that are the distractions that come into play the longer you work at something; for a time you can ignore FaceBook, emails, texts, the cat, the dog, hunger, stiff muscles, but the longer you try to write, the louder these distractions cry for attention.

Those are typical NaNoWriMo issues, the same ones that face people working on a single novel, as well as fakers (rebels, they like to call themselves) like me. A couple of ideas lent themselves to larger portraiture; potential longer short stories or possible novels, so it was easier to envision more scenes. Still, it has been interesting trying to push myself past those first moments.


The other interesting experience was that I started stealing single sentences of prose. I have a subscription to The New Yorker so I scrolled back through old issues and pulled up stories, re-reading them slowly, looking for a nice sentence that I could steal, one that will allow me to build my own situation or character around it.

If I ever get to submitting these stories I’ll re-write the stolen sentence, but so far I’ve forced the sentence in exactly as created and it’s interesting what I’ve learned in the process. Looking at these sentences in detail and trying to build another story for them has made me aware how perfect this prose is for the story I’ve stolen it from and how each phrase, each adjective, each description contributes to the clarity of the character or setting or situation; the perfection of which I would not have been aware of had I not tried to force it into a different story.

But it’s hard work; reading the story slowly, finding a sentence, rotating the personality trait or situation or meaning along a different path that still completely tangents the given line. Now, after the end of the month, I stole only eight lines, finished only two as 2,500 and 4,000 word stories. Another four I have an idea the direction I want to go but for whatever reason I’m uncertain how worthwhile the idea is and whether I should bother pursuing it, one more is short but nice but I don’t know where it’s going, and the last has neither good prose or characters or plot; an all out failure.

From regular prompts I have another twelve; one finished short story, one interesting start for a short story, one intriguing character that might expand to a novel, and, I guess, nine other failures to launch. Pretty small sample size, but maybe stealing good lines from good writing generates a higher percentage of useful material?

Ultimately, I failed to meet the word count, ending up somewhere just over 38,000 for the month. But after 23 days I have 20 different writings (not including the original project), with three first draft stories, one interesting start and one potential novel to carry forward.

Toward the end I wore out and wrote very little. My brain began to get thick and muddled and I thought of myself like the old woman who lived in a shoe, with so many children that I could not keep them straight.



bookmark_borderMore comparisons, music to fiction

One of my more recent large projects is revising a 3DayNovel from a year and a half ago, and, at the same time, revising the sequel that I wrote last NaNoWriMo.

These are very plot oriented stories, mysteries, action stories to some extent, and so there is a very definite structure, key points, key activities, key discussions that have to take place. And because of that I notice that I’m really short on character, internal dialogue, and setting, other than the bits that are key to the structure of the plot.

I had a writing instructor who insisted that there are plot writers and there are character writers, like there are boys and there are girls. Not her metaphor; mine, but she was almost that definite. But for me it depends on the writing situation. When I don’t know the plot at all, such as with writing exercises, I happily write building on what I’ve got in front of me, expanding the character, filling out the scenery, plot-less. The difference in this writing is that time progresses much more slowly and the world is filled out much more substantially. I listen to what I’m writing and pick up threads and ideas the same way that I do when I’m improvising jazz well; listening, building on ideas and interesting material, generating something that’s coherent and musical and says something.

The difficulty is how to get that depth of writing in when I’m focused on the plot. When I know I’m here and I know what’s next, how do I not go straight there?

I still remember in high school, Earth Sciences 11, my teacher gave me back my one page report with the grade of B, saying “I’ve never given that high a grade for so little writing.” He went on to add, “You have a talent for saying a lot with a few words.” Maybe I should have been an ad writer, but this still remains a tendency of mine; when I know the points that I want to reach, I focus on them and I get there right away.

And, going back to some things that I said in the previous post, I don’t listen to the story well when I review. I see the skeleton, the framework, I see what it means and how it relates to what has come before and to where I know I’m going,  and I don’t see the missing flesh. It’s like writing a piece of music that consists of only the lead lines and no harmonized or thickened or textured lines, no music for the violas or second clarinet or French horns to play, all first violin and trumpet and one percussionist and maybe double bass or tuba. That’s fine if you’re sketching a lead sheet for a jazz quintet or pop band and you let the other musicians make up their own parts, but not so good when you write for 20 piece jazz band or orchestra. And yet I’ve done the composing and arranging for large ensembles, as well as the MIDI composition where I have to create the bass and drum and piano parts myself. I need to be able to transfer that skill over to writing larger works of fiction.

bookmark_borderSequel finished

So, another NaNoWriMo has come and gone. Win number three, with plenty of days to spare.

After the plot difficulties and working to find the answers that I mentioned in the previous post, things came together. I fought my way through  to a reasonable plot. Then, once I came to the point where I had “all the holes plugged” in my middle so that the ending would work, I tried to get to the ending too fast. After some time struggling with this I realized that I needed to take some time and to fill things out. After that point things progressed pretty smoothly.

I tried to begin the review process but it’s too difficult. I don’t know whether it’s because the plot is too bloody complicated and I don’t have a handle on it, or because there are plot issues and writing issues and I can’t do both, or I can’t look at plot without seeing and sensing the writing issues. I do know that I don’t want to spend a lot of time or effort looking at the writing until I get a firmer grasp on the plot, since it seems inefficient to revise something that may get tossed in the bin entirely.

What I may do is go back to the first novel in the series and figure out how and where the additions that I wrote during the summer will fit in, since I haven’t done that yet. Then, I may highlight the additions because I have readers that have seen the earlier version but they need to know the additions before they can make sense of the sequel. That may give me enough distance to be able to start the review process.

If you know me, and are interested, I’m always looking for more readers.













bookmark_borderThe plot is taking over the novel!

As I write, we’re at day 14 of NaNoWriMo. My pace is fine, but there has been quite a bit of frustration for me.

This is a sequel, and, if I had to force it into a genre, it’s strongest fit would be as a mystery. When I wrote the first one, I had no plans for sequel; though one of my readers wanted one I had no idea what it could be about. Then I added some sections to fill out some characterizations, and from one of the additions, a followup storyline was hatched.

With a little bit of plotting, I thought that I was all set for November, but about a week into it, I was getting bogged down. There were secondary and minor plot points that I had not detailed in my planning and I needed to nail those down. They weren’t obvious, and the characters weren’t leading me to them. Quite the opposite; the characters seemed to be waiting for me to give them direction. It was as if I were head of a project and was assigned a batch of actor/employees. Each of the employees had a specific set of skills and a temperment and it was my job to assign to them a job; you, the double agent, here’s your sides and your thoughts about them, you, the journalist, here’s your clues, get to work, you, the tech guy, here’s the problem for you to solve.

But once each character is given their job/role, they jump right into it and the writing flows.

The other strange part for me is the plot itself. It’s a mystery, as I mentioned, and is a sequel. In the first story there are some loose ends as well as a few intentional hints, but to plot the sequel I have to unravel the mystery. It’s like trying to solve a mystery from the clues, but in this case the mystery was not created by some evil genius; the mystery was created by me. I feel as if all the answers to the plot questions that I have are buried in the first novel and in what I have so far in the second. But how can they be buried there, when I wrote all of that? Shouldn’t I know what I buried? What the answers are?

It’s as if I’m having to psychoanalyze myself, figure out why I did the things that I did, as if part of me has the reasons and answers, but my conscious mind was kept out of the planning. And it’s a heck of a strange experience.

I know that I write more often as a plot writer than as a character writer, though I have done both. But this is extreme for me. The plot seems to be everything, and nothing happens without it. Something else is in control of this novel, and it isn’t my conscious mind.
















bookmark_borderPrepping NaNo 2012: How traits present, and Listing moments

As I write, the date is September 24, 2012, and I have just spent the last hour burning with material for NaNoWriMo 2012. Ideas are just popping out and I’m throwing them down in a private blog post for future reference.

This will be NaNoWriMo V for me. I’m planning a sequel to my 2011 3DayNovel story that has grown from 23,500 words into what is now a 60,000 word novel, with further revisions, additions and deletions still to come. A few months ago (while lying in a bath; a great place for ideas!) I got the central plot for the sequel. I’ve played with the ideas off and on by creating a few different pages on ListThings, but now I’ve accumulated those pages into a single blog post, and in the last hour I’ve added about 100% more.

In keeping with the NaNoWriMo rules all these prep materials are only thoughts, ideas, descriptions, characters, plots, and questions because I’m not allowed to do any actual writing until November 1. What I’m finding useful are two things that I learned in the 2012 3DayNovel process:

  1. Look at how characteristics and personality traits could possibly present themselves. These I indicate with “AS: “, meaning that the trait presents itself by the character doing these possible things, or as, and,
  2. List moments or events, rather than thinking in terms of chapters or scenes,

and then I throw down anything that comes to mind, even if they are contradictory or out of sequence. Contradictory reactions could be the same trait presenting in a different situation, or I could build a new contrasting character from it or add the trait to an existing character for tension. And sequence doesn’t matter in the notes because I can rearrange at any time.

And I wasn’t aware how constricting the search for scenes (chapters) is for my thinking process. I wasn’t even aware that I was thinking in terms of chapters until I stopped and forced myself to look smaller, to just imagine moments. “Trips and drops books” is a moment, and later I can add the kind of day the MC was having and/or where they going and/or what distracted them, and then who saw this and what happened as a result of this moment later on in the plotting or in the writing process. If I focus on trying to generate a multitude of moments to write that relate to

  1. the plot, and/or to
  2. the exposition of a character’s personality traits, or
  3. conflicts between characters, or
  4. important characteristics of the setting, or
  5. basically any element of the story,

I can find ways to join them together later, or throw them out, or replace them with something else.

And the nice thing is that NaNoWriMo doesn’t require me to subtract the trashed writing from my total word count.


The other nice thing will be, if I collect enough moments, that I will rarely get stuck in the writing process. Because the moments do not always have a predetermined sequence or connections to other moments I can jump around anywhere and write anything. Now, sequentially some things must likely come before others because some moments will depend on some previous events having previously occurred (can’t throw out the baby with the bath water unless the bath has been drawn, the house has been built, the baby has been born, ect), but I don’t have to join or transition them as I write. And without written transitions I may feel freer to reorder as needed. I can save the transitioning to lulls in the writing process, or whenever I feel the need to glue some parts together to get a better sense of the whole so far.

But, I suspect that one of the keys to working this way is to generate a massive quantity of moments and possibilities, including lots and lots of small daily occurrence types of events. That may be part of the reason that my 3DayNovel ended up being a short story.



bookmark_borderPost-NaNoWriMo 2011, or, Begining the second version of the 3DayNovel

So I didn’t make the 20,000 words in eleven days to total 50,000 for my manufactured NaNoWriMo for this year, but I did manage to come up with close to 15,000, and have kept at it since then, though at a much slower pace.

But after spending two weeks since then trying to add scenes to my original 23,000 word 3DayNovel I became aware that most of the new material added new characters, something that I had a slight inclination to try to avoid at first because I felt that I had enough characters for the length of the story. I tried to add scenes using the existing characters but found that difficult to do because I was also trying to avoid writing the scenes that I had already identified as missing and needed; I was trying to focus on fresh material only and it was difficult to do so without adding characters.

Is there any point in having the MC have dinner with his friend again? If they go somewhere, do something, does that add anything to the story? These are some of the things that I tried, but came up with dead ends in most of the time.

Then I looked at pushing one of the secondary characters, taking the POV and seeing some of his story. The next two most important characters have to remain mysteries so any POV done from their perspective would have to be deliberately obtuse, and that might be difficult given their secrets; they have huge secrets that they’re hiding with almost everything they say or do. (But then there’s great conflict hiding there! ) And given that it’s a short novel, shifting of POV can’t be treated casually. It’s not ‘War and Peace’ where it makes total sense to spend some time seeing the world from Pierre’s eyes, from Natasha’s eyes, even from Petra’s eyes.

So I may do some POV shifting to tell more sidestory or backstory. But the important thing that I realized is that:

  • My MC is boring when he’s not doing something that he’s good at

He’s also not awful at anything, so I can’t show him screwing things up, which also might be entertaining. But trying to generate more scenes with him by adding scenes that do not have anything to do with the mystery that he will solve is really difficult, which is why I added characters as I tried to spin out more material. Imagine Jack Reacher going for a walk to kill time and not meeting thugs or Kinsey Milhone sitting in a movie theater for no plot reason. I did manage to show more about his history, his personality, and a lot about other perspectives and attitudes about the story that he’s researching so these additional characters add something to the story.

But this is where it ties back to the second charater’s POV for this particular story that I’m working on. There is a huge chunk of material that’s key to solving the mystery that the second character digs up and dumps on the lap of the MC. On one hand this is like material supplied by Garcia to the rest of the BAU in ‘Criminal Minds’ and you don’t want to sit there and watch her trying to hack into systems and then querying databases and then cross referencing her materials, but that’s where the a large part of the information to solve the mystery comes from. The result is that there’s a lot ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’, or in this case ‘discovering’ this material, which is a fundamental fiction writer’s error.

How do you write about research and turn it into an activity? Especially when it’s all done from a wheelchair?

bookmark_borderEnd of writing class

As of last night I finished the beginner writing night course that I had been taking, and I feel a sense of relief.

Where does the relief come from? From aspects of the course that I didn’t enjoy, like

  • listening to, rather than reading things that other people in the class wrote and then trying to critique. I find that translation of hearing to imagined reading difficult and would much rather look at the writing that I’m critiquing.
  • the lack of non-positive comments from the rest of the class. A combination of people not being comfortable doing critiquing and a fear of saying something that hurts someone’s feelings.
  • the lack of depth and breadth of comments. Partly this is due to a fairly big class meaning less time for critiques, plus people rarely volunteered comments if the instructor didn’t select them for the mandatory critique.
  • lack of energy in the classroom in general. The instructor was an elderly person whose voice was on the soft side. She didn’t generate a lot of energy and neither did much of the rest of the class.
  • interference of the last 3 classes with NaNoWriMo for time. Each class plus travel time plus homework time took a good 4-5 hours out of each week.

But I think that I did get what I was looking for from the class.

  • review of basic fiction writing elements
  • learned about some common writing errors (ly words)
  • a review of some of my writing by people that I don’t know, including one person (the instructor) who has lots of experience
  • a more indepth review of one piece of writing. We submitted a 10 page work on the 3rd to last week and she reviewed it and returned it to us in the last class. I submitted the first 10 pages of my NaNoWriMo novel from two years ago that I still have hopes of cleaning up and submitting for publication.

And some things that I didn’t expect came out as the course progressed as well. For example, the fact that, when assigned a writing assignment, I don’t automatically write erotica. Or even mention sex. The reason that I find this odd is that everything that I voluntarily wrote between the forced NaNoWriMo of previous years and the forced assignments of this class has been erotica. You mean to say that there’s more to my writing that just sex?

And the fact that I had already done some writing before starting the class somehow seemed obvious? The instructor kept saying that I already know how to write, and asked why I was taking the class. I didn’t feel that my work was significantly better than anything anyone else submitted. It might have been in the top 3 each week out of 8 – 12 readings but I didn’t sense a big difference between what I wrote and what other people wrote.

bookmark_borderNaNoWriMo at the half way point

This year has been tough. For my first NaNoWriMo I came up with a characteristic that I wanted to investigate (creativity), applied different versions to have three different characters (recombining, unorthodox, people skills) and then figured out a way that the three would have some connection to each other (famous artist returning to birth city, daughter of gallery owner, son of gallery owner) and then let my protagonist work her way through developing relationships with each of these three in turn. Just let my characters interact.

This time I started much earlier in the prep process and came up with a handful of characters to fill out the plot that I built. And this story covers some 50 years or so, though most of it is focused in the present. The result is that I’ve had to write a dozen or so almost stand-alone short stories using the existing characters and trying to come up with examples that will demonstrate the personalities of the characters. It’s a heck of a lot more work, and difficult to manage any kind of flow. And lacking flow in the writing process it becomes much more difficult to imagine or hypothesize what might happen next.

But, I’m barely keeping pace right now, so I just have to keep chugging along.