I spent a very "writerly" day today.
I went early to a writing group, then out to Santee for a school visit, then home to write a few pages on a new book.
Very writerly, indeed.
And, like a writer, there was something that one of my critique group members said that I could not get out of my brain. We were talking about outlining (which I do NOT do, in most cases). She had just attended a marvelous UCSD extension writing course during which she worked on her memoir. She came out with a Plan for her book, plan with a capital "P."
"Now I feel like I know the story's spine. I can feel its backbone," she said.
And I knew exactly how she felt, even though I have never created a plot map or a beat sheet. I understand what it is to know the spine of a tale before you ever start a word. Now for me, sometimes I relate the spine to a different object--for Trinket, I visualized a necklace with seven charms--lovely each on their own, but when connected together, they create something really beautiful. In Feathers, Songs and Curses (which I finished not too long ago), I could see two different trees, growing together into one. The two tales had to intertwine to create the spine. For these books, once I could see this "backbone", I could begin.
A backbone is different from a blue print, I think. A spine is central to the story, and holds the rest of it together, but is not as detailed as a blue print--not by any means.
Don't get me wrong, though. I start many a story as an invertebrate, floppy and spineless, no backbone at all--because I don't quite know what it is. Yet. Is it a picture book? Is it an easy reader? Is there enough story for a chapterbook? Or is it poem, for no one else but me to read? I end up "writing around the writing" before I truly type the first words, just to figure that out.
But once a story has a spine, then I can begin for real.
On a different note, I am close to being able to reveal Trinket's trailer. Yay! And I'll be at ALA on Friday (and hopefully Saturday). If you are there to, let me know. I'd love to meet up!