Thursday, 28 August 2008

What works for you?

I've read on several blogs recently aboutwriters who are plotting their novels some to a very detailed stage and I was thinking that I envy them. So far I have two novels (both sadly still sitting in the bottom drawer) and a third in progress. On each occasion I have gone about the writing process the same way.
I have started with a premise and I have known where I wanted to end up. I also have my central character. Then I start to write. Sometimes, especially in the second novel things develop in a way that I hadn't anticipated but when the pen was in my hand it just felt like the way it would be.
The odd thing is that when I'm at my day job things are planned with military precision and I have to be in control of any situation that I am responsible for. But then, I suppose when the pen is in my hand I am in charge in tat situation too.
My most recent efforts is at an early stage but i am trying something slightly different. Normally i would write in long hand and then type up in sections of 5000 words or so and edit as I go along. This time I plan on writing the whole thing in a first draft before starting to type it. Thats the plan at the minute though I just finished a passage last night that I've been writing for a while and have found quite difficult to do and I was tempted to put it to one side and start typing on more than one occasion. However that's done now and I can move on to the next part. However, and this goes back to the planning thing. When I first started writing the passage I didn't like the character that I was wrting about but last night when I put the last full stop in place I found that I sympathised with them and they really weren't hat bad. Thw whole book took a different direction.
So I don't know if working in a more structured way would work for me.


Debs said...

It's sometimes difficult to know what works best.

I've tried both structured and just writing and seeing where the story takes me, but with a vague idea as to where I'm supposed to be heading with it. This last way seems to suit me best.

Gonna be a writer said...

Me too Debs, I'm sure of it.

Anonymous said...

Hi, GonnaB. I'm back from a three week holiday in Canada, so I'm catching up with all my blogging.

This question has come up a number of times in various forums: Plan up-front before writing, or steam ahead with the writing in a more organic manner? Like many aspects of fiction writing, I immediately drew analogies with the world of software development, where a similar question arises: Do you write program code from the ground up, evolving it as you go (bottom-up approach), or do you do all the design up-front before writing the code (top-down approach)?

Both of these methods have their advantages and disadvantages. If you plan everything ahead, you will have a great structure and know exactly where you are going. However, you may then miss out on some of the more creative aspects of writing: what Stephen King calls something like "unearthing the story". That amazing process where you end up going somewhere you didn't expect to go. On the other hand, if you rely on the organic story-growing process alone, your plot could suffer for it and you may end up with inconsistencies or worse.

So, what's the answer? For me it's both! It doesn't have to be an either/or situation. I start with some planning and plotting using my favourite technique of storyboarding. Very roughly in the initial stages. Then I start writing and evolving for a while, before going back to adjust the plot and refining it some more. Then back to pure writing, and so on until the first draft is done. This way, I get the best of both methods. Hopefully. Note that it's important to keep your plot documents up-to-date with what you're actually writing in the text.

It's taken me quite a while to realise this approach. In the early days I had no planning and ended up with messy and inconsistent plots. Later on, I went completely the other way, and often had very dull stories as a result. I also had one case of analysis-paralysis, where I stupidly over-complicated the plot due to too much up-front planning. I like to think I'm finding a good balance these days.

These techniques may not suit everyone, but if you're stuck on deciding, then why not try it out?

Gonna be a writer said...

I'm willing to try anything if it makes my writing better. Thanks. Hope youhad a good trip captain

KAREN said...

Neither approach is working for me at the moment. I keep running out of steam, either plot-wise or by realising I really should have done a bit more planning beforehand. Tut. I wonder if there's a third option??

Gonna be a writer said...

If you find a third option Karen be sure and share the secret.