Ramblings Of a Steampunk Writer

A blog about writing... occasionally mine. But, mostly just writing.

Author Interview & The Writing Process: A Mess To Some, Organized To Others

Saturday, March 23, 2013

First order of business: My author interview is up for those of you who are interested in reading it. I think its fascinating stuff, but I could be a little biased. Anyway, link is here.

Now, onto the meat of the article.

When I first started writing fanfiction years ago I was something of a lazy author. What child, teenager, isn't though? I would never make an outline, but I always had a general idea of what I was writing about at the beginning, the middle, and the end. Still, is this really laziness or are you just using a creative process? I know or have heard of a number of authors who can and do write this way; however, from those authors I've also heard frustrations bemoaned...

"I don't know what to write now..." 
"I have writer's block!" 
"Bloody hell! It's not working!" 
"Can you help me brainstorm? I just don't know where this story is going anymore..."

It's not and entirely uncommon theme. They're frustrated; who wouldn't be? Sometimes this freeform way of writing works in the start, or just works for those rare people; although, for the majority of us--insofar as I've noticed--if doesn't work.

So, what do you do? You're asking yourself, can I still be a freeform kind of writer and be a little more organized?

Let's first look at what works for others in the extreme case of organizing.

When I first explored publishing I came across a site about formatting a manuscript and synopsis; naturally, these were things I was still learning about beyond my grade school/high school definitions. The woman who wrote the web site (I'd share it if I still had the link) spoke about her form of organization and how it was very important to the writing process to establish one. Her method was very in depth; she had a room just for writing that had: a filing system, post-it notes and index cards, and a map on the wall of the city her novel (series) encompassed. Now, this was just the tip of the iceberg. She would use the index cards on a wall with tacks and then run strings wrapped around them to other index cards; all of the index cards had information about the book(s); each one connected to a different idea or how something was connected in the story. This was to help her keep track of all her ideas and story-lines over the course of her book series or book.

I found this fascinating, but couldn't see myself doing it. Still, it was an awesome idea for the more driven of writers in need of a visual aid. If you're that type of author it could work very well for you. Or, if you have a lot of books and series sometimes the notebook stack of information might need a more stretched out visual form. I can personally see myself getting to this level in the next few years when I actually have my own writing room/office/studio/study.

Is there an easier way?

There's plenty. For now, my own methods worked very well for me after reading Fiction: The Art and Craft and Getting Published by Michael Seidman. He covers a great number of topics, but outlining was one of the better sections. He urges there aren't really any rules about it, not in so many words. At the very least though, you need a rough bulleted list for the whole book; or numbered. It needs to encompass your beginning, your climax, your ending, and bits of things you consider important between all these that you want to have happen no matter what (at least when you begin to come up with your ideas). He tells the reader the list can change at anytime during the novel writing, but it's important to have because it helps keep a writer on track.

I wasn't so sure at first, but the guy has been in the publishing business since before computers became available to the public; I figured he had a point. I gave it a whirl and altered his idea to suit my own needs.

When I make an outline I do it on my computer first. Recently, I'll do it on a reference tab on Scrivenver. (A great--the best in my opinion--writing program. I'll cover it in another entry.) It's just for the whole of the book and rough at that. Then, as I start to write (in that more freeform manner) and find myself hitting blocks, I'll make outlines in a notebook for each chapter. This keep me from getting in a slump, gets me away from the computer where the slump may have a hold on me (or the computer might be giving me distractions: facebook as an example), and helps me keep continuity. It's also another freeform way of writing because it helps me brainstorm and run with ideas however I see fit through each chapter outline.

Now, my outlines are not perfect. For my novel outlines it's really loose one a bulleted list with almost no chapter distinction. On my chapter outlines I just write the chapter name at the top of the page (Chapter 25 as an example: very basic) and then write a summary of what I want to have happen.

So what should I do...?

Whatever works best. If the total freeform method is working for you, then keep it up! But, I urge you to always try new ways to write. Sometimes, you might find your writing grows and matures to something better. More importantly, you might find a way to do this process and that's better than what you're currently doing.



janedougherty said...

I do the thing with the outline plus important bits. I keep in in a file on the desktop when I'm writing so I can add bits to it as they occurr to me. As I use the material I delete it in the plan so I don't have to plough through yards of notes every time I need to check what comes next.

Kit Roe said...

That sounds like a plan, girl. At least it's something. Better than to wade into the unknown without a life raft.

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