Sunday, April 15, 2012

On Writing


How much are you in control of what you write? Are you able to discard an idea you know is probably going to be difficult to pull off?

Or are you swept away by words you didn't know you had in your head when you sat down?

I read a piece by Laura Lippman that said she outlines when she gets into a jam with a novel. It's only then that she begins to evaluate where she is and what must come next. What is working, what characters are not well developed enough or are in the story too much.

I think I do outline--but only in my head. The main thing for me when I am writing that first draft is that I like the voice, the character. I am seduced by it, in fact.

Control comes in later edits for me. Plot if often the last consideration. The character finally shows me what he is up to.

What about you?

13 comments:

Dana King said...

I put 50,000 words of a story aside a few weeks ago, and started from scratch with an outline I'm still working on. I tried the headlights approach with the original--sketching ideas only a few chapters ahead, and found myself in a cul-de-sac with no way out i cared to write.

So I started over with a new premise. What I've written is still on the hard drive in case I figure out some day what to do with it, but I'd wasted enough time trying to weave a silk purse from it for now.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Even with the novels, I only really got plot-oriented after I was pretty far into it. Which may be why my novels seem a bit like novels in stories rather than novels.

F.T. Bradley said...

I didn't used to outline my novels a whole lot, but I always knew how the story would end. I have to outline now, since my editor has to give it the thumbs-up... Thankfully, I only have to come up with about a dozen plot points, so I have room to play around :-)

But it helps to outline; I have to do a lot less editing.

The characters change the plot direction every once in a while, though. And that's the real magic and fun of a first draft.

Anonymous said...

Obviously I only write non-fiction and not that much of that, but that said I'm like Patti: I always write in my head first, thinking what I want to say and how I want to say it, before I start writing it down.

Jeff M.

Chris Rhatigan said...

I outline less and less now. I think this is because my philosophy has changed. I used to be much more concerned about plot, now I'm more interested in establishing character and voice.

I'm very much of the mind that if something isn't working, I just throw it away. I learned this the hard way after slogging through stories that just weren't working for one reason or another.

Cullen Gallagher said...

I used to write stories by the seat of my pants. The result was a lot of initial concepts, but few stories actually finished, and fewer in acceptable-enough shape to show people.

I took a break from writing and started outlining plots and projects. I've attempted 3 using this new process, and all three times the writing was smoother, easier, and more fun. I can always change as I go along (as I have in all three cases), but having that road map has changed things for the better for me.

Thomas Pluck said...

I tried to write novel-length without outlining, I made a mess. I won't go without again. The outline may not be completely filled in, but it will be there so I know what spaces need pegs.

James Reasoner said...

The older I get, the more I need a good outline. But I never stick with it completely.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Interesting questions! I like to outline and plan. I think it's because of my academic background. But that said though, I really do like that feeling of being carried away when something is going really well.

Al Tucher said...

I can't outline at all, because I never know what the story is about when I start. I know only that I want to use this place I visited or that incident that I remember or heard about. Very inefficient, but it's the only way that works for me.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Pretty much me, Al.

Graham Powell said...

I'm working on my first novel, and thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to write. Then I got into it and was shocked by just how much stuff I had to make up every day.

I'm also surprised how much the novel has evolved. I had thought I was a stick-to-the-plan writer, but I find myself moving characters around and changing their motivations all the time. A couple of second-tier characters were invented bascially on the spur of the moment.

It's been an interesting experience, and I'm only about a third done.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That's great, Graham. And my experience every time out. Characters grab the spotlight or hide in corners. You never know.