Writing A Novel Within A Frame

Writing A Novel Within A Frame, guest post by Gail Vida Hamburg @gailvidahamburg @iReadBookTours

While writing my first novel, The Edge of the World, (Mirare Press, 2007) I was like an explorer in the Amazon rain forest, slipping under low-hanging tree branches, and parting curtains of palms and vines, until I got to the center of my story. It was a wonderful creative journey, but it took years to write because I had no plan. I had a first person narrator and she and I were searching for the story in front of us. We’d get lost in the forest, we’d follow false leads, walk around in circles, or go off on tangents. It was a work of the subconscious, a work of retrieving memory, of fusing new knowledge to old experience, of inventing characters and creating composite characters to advance the story. It was a beautiful adventure in art and exasperating. I didn’t know what the novel was about until I finished multiple drafts. While I’m happy with the finished book, I believe I could have been a more effective novelist if I’d done some advance work before going into the fictional woods.
Writing A Novel Within A Frame, guest post by Gail Vida Hamburg @gailvidahamburg @iReadBookTours
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With Liberty Landing, my second novel, (Mirare Press, 2018) I began thinking of the story I was planning to write long before I wrote it.  I had a seed of an idea about the novel I envisioned, a novel about the American Experience today and the American Experiment bequeathed to us by the Founders. I began reading American history, about the Founding Fathers, and about the beginning of America. I knew the novel would be about Americans in a small community and I began to think of the fictional universe of my novel and the characters to tell the story. Even before I began writing the novel, I sketched an outline of the story, one sentence bios of each of the major characters, and their relationships to each other.
By the time I sat down to write Liberty Landing, I had a frame for the story and my main characters cut on the canvas. When I look at the outline now—the frame that preceded the seven year enterprise of writing the novel—I am amazed by how little I strayed from it, and  astonished by how the novel unfolded, and how the characters surprised me at every turn. In the outline, I did not know anything about Gabriel Khoury, my protagonist, other than that he was a Palestinian Christian. In the outline, all I knew of Angeline LaLande was that she was a journalist, and that she was Louisiana Creole.

While there are writers who insist that any pre-writing sullies the writing of fiction, I am inclined to disagree. When an artist begins a painting, she is compelled to paint within the borders and edges of a canvas. The novelist’s canvas has no edges, one can keep writing pages in a Word document up to 32 MB. An outline, a thumbnail, a map, a diagram—a visual expression of the story doesn’t spoil the writing of fiction. Rather it is controlled creativity, propelling the story forward within a structure. It gives shape and form to the emerging story. A novel can be told in countless ways. An outline allows the writer not to waste her writing time going down countless trails. It liberates the novelist to write a story into being without getting lost.

Writing A Novel Within A Frame, guest post by Gail Vida Hamburg @gailvidahamburg @iReadBookTours
Gail Vida Hamburg is an award-winning American journalist, author, and museum storyist. She is the author of The Edge of the World (Mirare Press, 2007), a novel about the impact of American foreign policy on individual lives. A nominee for the 2008 James Fenimore Cooper Prize, it is a frequent text in undergraduate post- colonial studies, war studies, and creative writing programs. Born in Malaysia, she spent her teens and twenties in England before migrating to the United States. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Literature and Creative Writing from Bennington Writers Seminars at Bennington College, Vermont. Liberty Landing, the first volume in her trilogy about the American Experience, is her love letter to the great American Experiment.

She lives in Chicago—the setting for Liberty Landing, a finalist for the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

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