Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Organized Writing, aka What the Heck Am I Doing

How do you write? What is the organization process?

Some writers who claim the have no process at all. They just jump in with both feet, submerging themselves in the stream of consciousness. At the other end you have the outliners and storyboarders who map out every scene before they ever put hands to keyboard or pen to page. But which method is best?

Neither.

Stream of consciousness writing is like a firing a shotgun at a rifle target. You might hit the mark, but you're gonna make a mess. And it's not a lot of fun to clean up after.

Hyper-organized writing is okay in the beginning; it's good to have a plan. But if you aren't willing to deviate from the plan your hinder creativity. Think of it like running a race on the track. You know where the finish line is. You know the parameters of the track. Now you have to run the race. And if you want to win, be prepared to adapt with changing conditions on the track.

Two sports references in a row. Clearly someone watched a little too much Olympics.

The point is, organization is no substitute for organization and vice versa. You have to use both, if your book stands any chance of surviving the writing process.

Case in point. I'm deep into writing the sequel to Matriculated Death. Half of the book takes place over a century ago, and the rest of the events occur present day. I outlined everything first, to make sure the past and present would balance each other. Then I storyboarded the past scenes. They're based on events in American history, and I had to be sure that the timeline was right. Next, I started writing. I flipped back and forth between the two time periods, writing each in chronological order.

The writing plan half worked. It was fine for the historic scenes, but the character development for the present scenes was lousy. I re-examined the outline for the present scenes, and threw it out. The end of the book was clear to me, and that had to be my starting place. And so the writing process had to change. The historic scenes are storyboarded and written beginning to end, but the present scenes are written end to beginning with no outline or plan.

And even that is just an ideal. Sometimes I'll have an idea for a scene that's out of order with what I'm currently writing, and I pause to jot it down. Little bit of that shotgun approach thrown in, just to keep it interesting.

How do you write?

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