Monday, April 27, 2009

Coming Up

Happy Monday, all!

My "birthday fantasy story" turned out to be more of a...spoof! Loved it. Sometimes I laughed out loud. (Nicole, you are naturally funny!) Thanks for playing. Though, seriously, the princess's love interest was a bit of a fluff, wasn't he? Give me Aragorn on horse any day.

Just to let you know that we're going to do some 1000-word critting tomorrow. We're on numbers 11 through 15. If that's you and you want to send me any edits, do so quickly! I'll be setting them up later today to post automatically in the morning.

On the writing front, I've got a plotting question for those of you who tend to be more organic writers, like me. Let's say you're zooming right along with your first draft. Lots of cool "what if's" and "what is he hinting ats" and "gasps!" and "oh no, what does that means" and...well, you get what I'm saying.

At that point, do you sit down and map it all out? Or do you just keep pressing on, working it out as you go?

Because, yeah, I'm there. And I tried twice this past weekend to sit down and work out the intertwined story arcs in my trusty notebook. And fell asleep both times.

A story planner I am not. But right now I'm craving it. Needing it, even.

So how do you work it all out? Share your methods!

And I'll see you in the morning for this week's crit session.


  1. I just keep on barreling forward; the times I've tried to map it out at that particular point it's just been so frustrating and time-consuming and I keep thinking: I'd rather be writing right now.

    Good luck!

  2. I agree with Peter. I sit down and let it flow. Yes, it makes for a lot of editing later but its there and I'd rather it be written than not. (Sometimes I'm just amazed at what comes out. Characters I had no idea were in there.)

    I even wrote about that on my Live Journal today.

    And I also agree with your taste, Authoress. Aragorn on a horse- it doesn't get any better than that!

  3. When I set out to write a novel I usually start with a scene list of 50 to 70 scenes. When I get stuck I look at the scene list. If it needs to be modified as I go, I modify on the fly. I am not published but feel my work is getting closer every year. Did I say year? I which there was an easier way...

  4. With my fingers on the keyboard. As I'm typing, something will pop into my head, I'll say, "Hm. That sounds kind of good." And I'll put it in. I do my best thinking about the story while I'm in the story, if that makes sense. My first drafts are an absolute mess -- I jump all over the place, leave myself notes in the doc and other crazy things. I love them, though. They're so much fun because I can still do whatever the heck I want at first draft stage.

    Hm, reading the comments above, I guess my method is much the same as well.

  5. I keep a separate notes file. So for every "Story of Love" file, I have a "Story of Love Notes" file.

    And that's the file where I jot down any kind of general plot notes.

    I also have a section for "Unfinished Business" where I list open ended plot threads that need to be pulled through.

  6. I like to go live in my world when I'm a power walk or on the tread mill. Usually I'll work on a specific scene or problem in my head, but other times I'll just hang out with a character for fun, or meander around without a specific purpose. Often that is when an "ah ha" moment hits me. I'll get it down, and worry about details, scene placement and weaving it in later.

  7. I plan as little as possible b/c I've learned outlining 1)takes away the thrill of creating, and 2)as the story progresses, the plot or characters go in a different direction than I had planned. Both of these situations leave me unmotivated and frustrated.

    This time around, I started with a scene, an MC, and vague idea, then asked "What would happen next?" and "Who/what would conflict most with my MCs?"

    It seems to be working so far. By basing the action on cause and effect, I'm keeping a logical flow to plot, extraneous info to a minimum, and tension high from scene to scene.

    If I think of something I want to add later, or some bit of info I need to know, I jot down it in the margin.

  8. I just wing it and fix everything during the multiple edits process. Hey, it works for me.

    I also have been known to make 'notes' as I'm going along in bold like 'does this make sense' or 'needs work later'. I also keep a 'notes' file as well.

    Basically, if the words are flowing, I let them flow, and I fix what I must at some later date. I've just never been able to plot out beginning, middle, and in end. In fact, on the current project out to query, I had a totally different love interest in mind for the MC, when suddenly things shifted and MC ended up with somebody totally unexpected. Go figure.

  9. I write the whole story as it comes to me, characters telling me what happens, and they always start WAY back from the beginning of their sordid little lives. I keep writing until they "tell me" how everything turns out. I usually write about 50K words or so to get the basic story down. By this time I know the characters quite well. Then I have to put it away for about 2-3 months and work on something else.

    When I get it out again, I read it a couple times and find the place where everything changes in their lives and the scene where they all come together in a nice lively disaster. That's the beginning, and from there I work out a chapter outline, rearranging the scenes and action for a better flow and plot arch. I also fill out a character worksheet to reference as I rewrite to keep them consistent in motivation and goals, etc.

    I also sketch out the scenes/sequels in each chapter and begin the rewrite, stopping for research where needed. I always write my first draft in the MC's first person POV, so the second draft has to be changed to third person.

    So, to answer your question, I do the outline after I've written the first draft and before I write the second.

  10. I've found that I can't do anything until I have that first draft. It might be inefficient, and I might end up writing a whole lot of words that don't get used, but when I plan too much I feel like I'm just writing to the outline, and I tend to loose focus and interest.

  11. If my muse showed up for work that day, I just usually keep writing until I reach the end. Then I read it and figure out (1) What did I leave out that should have been included so this makes sense, and (2) What did I include that has absolutely no need of being there?

    That's actually a bit over-simplified. I usually edit each chapter as I go along, adding or deleting things, changing sentence structure, word choice, etc. Sometimes, after writing the third or fourth chapter, I'll go back and start editing. I'm kind of a detail-oriented person, so I don't like things in an un-tidy state.

    Hope that helps.

  12. I sit down and let it flow. Then I return to murder my darlings. I wrote on exactly this topic today. Writers should never let the rough drafts hold any power over them. It's where all ideas come to play.

  13. I know how my story is going to start and where I want it to end up, so I sit down and write, write, write. Then, I go back and cut, cut, cut the bad parts and flesh, flesh, flesh out the good parts. Then, I do an outline, to make sure each chapter is saying and moving where it was supposed to be going in the first place. (Unless the first place was one of the bad parts I cut :-)

  14. I have just started using notecards, yes, old fashioned 3x5's! It's nothing complicated, but for each chapter I just make notes and that way if I see something missing as I go along I can go back or ahead and add a word or 'note to self' for further review, and it doesn't slow me down. I tend to forget things, so it's working, but it's very loosey goosey...I used it more as a reference than a bible.

  15. I'm right there with you. It's been three years and I've had, literally, dozens of outlines. Mostly I write to the point where I'm hideously lost and then I write an outline. And then I write some more until I'm hideously lost again, and then write another outline. I'd say you have to do what is comfortable. If you are hideously lost or having a hard time tolerating the uncertainty of where the story is going, an outline would work nicely for sure. Outlines, for me, are mostly an organization of thoughts. They have never actually provided the path to the end of the story. But they have definitely been a means to finding my way. I hope you find yours!

  16. Recently, I wrote myself into a corner and discovered that my anti-outline approach would never work with a story as complicated as mine. So, quite reluctantly, I started working on an outline. AND THEN I discovered that the story wasn't as complicated in outline form as it was in my head, and now I'm convinced that outlines really are essential to planning and accurately plotting a story.

    However, that being said, I think the key to NOT falling asleep as you outline and plot in your notebook (because I've encountered this many times) is to keep away from formal outlining if you can. Just list everything you want to happen within each chapter or write out a brief summary in a simple paragraph--and whah lah! You've summed up your story in about 30 minutes are so. As an anti-outliner, that's the approach that worked best for me. SO MUCH of the story lives in my head that taking the time to hash it all out detail for detail is to time-consuming. After all, can't that only truly be achieved after you have the finished product in your hands--100K words or so later?

  17. I wish I could help you, but I'm absolutely a non-organic kind of writer. To be honest, I have no clue how you organic kinds of writers do it, but you do. here's hoping you figure it out!

  18. It's called stewage. Not to be confused with sewage. No writing, planning, plotting, or mapping (or napping!) allowed. Just thinking. In the car. Whilst doing dishes. Playing guitar hero. Listening to Adam Lambert. Showering. Whatev.

    Then when you feel properly stewed, something will come. At least, that's always what happens for me. I just never. stop. thinking. about. it. Ever. Cuz I'm not a story planner either. I'm a thinker. Er, stewer. :D

  19. I start doing a rough plot outline within the document itself, after a couple of chapters, by which point I know more of where the story's going than I did when I started writing. I go through one plot, saying things like "Hero goes to work and talks to Informant, who tells him that Possible Villain is acting strange" and "fight scene!". Then I backtrack and write in the next plot, and the next, and so on, where each plot point needs to fit for the story to work (i.e., where I think it needs to fit). I write either in paragraphs or point form, often both at the same time, and once on secondary plots, I often change the primary slightly to fit both points into the same scene.

    Once the outline's finished, I put in tentative chapter markings. I don't always follow them, but it's nice to have the division because that sets a small goal. I'm not finishing the novel, I'm finishing the chapter, which is a lot less daunting (and gets me into bed or out the door earlier, too).

    Once the outline's finished with, I'll keep writing, following it as much as I can, but any time I come up with a new idea, I'll jot it down—within the outline, if it's for plot, or above the outline, if it's for anything else (scene, dialogue, world-building, etc.). That way everything's handy for when I need it, or need to change it. Because changes happen—I'll think of a better way to get from C to D, or I'll think of a way to have get C and Secondary Point E into the same scene, instead of having them one after the other.

    tl;dr I just write and jot down ideas for future reference after a page break, in rough plot order, and I check the list occasionally to remind myself what's in it.

  20. Like you, Authoress, I'm an organic writer. I blogged about the process today, so maybe writing/plotting is on all our minds at the moment!

    I do stream of consciousness writing, but it's not necessarily a chronological or straight stream I follow. Scenes or character dialogue float to the surface of my mind and the novel emerges rather like a complicated game of connect the dots.

  21. I still haven't found a method that always works, but I recently got a big pad of drawing paper and just started writing down the various points of each plot in more of a visual map way. You know, village here. Stream runs there--only it was MC challenges Mom over there & Doofus Cop discovers Alien in that corner. Now draw swoopy lines to link it together in an order. (Won't be final!) It seemed to help.

    I really can't make an outline, but bullet lists of what needs to happen sometimes are enough structure to keep the plots all working along.

    And yes, I write my synopsis after at least half the book is written cuz it takes me that long to figure out what it's really about ;)

    Nice to know I'm not alone and to get some good suggestions that work with pantser-type brains.

    Verif. word: antslib--movement to free ants from those plastic "farms" ?

  22. I can't plot or outline, but for some strange reason I can write a synopsis. Probably all those contests that require first chapter and synopsis when all I've got is a first chapter. The book doesn't always end up exactly like my first synopsis, but it's helpful to figure out the character arc early on.

    Also, I like to write down a brief summary of what I've already written chapter by chapter. What important bits of information have I brought out in each scene. Then I can read through and see how the book is flowing. Sort of like storyboarding in hindsight.

  23. I'm a plotter. But my outlines are more like a drawn out synopsis. I have the major plot points and scenes and I usually stick to it. But there is much creative freedom while writing because so much has to happen to get from point A to B. And if I get better ideas then I just change it.

    My mind wants to work ahead and see what happens. It gets impatient. And while my muse is on an outline it makes more sense for me to go with it right then, rather than wait chapter to chapter. The good thing is that there doesn't seem to be a wrong or right way, it's what works for you.

  24. Wow, so many people set off without a map! I'm more of a cartographer, myself.
    While I've never sat down and made an actual outline with roman numerals or anything, I write extraneous information, backstory, plotting, or whatever I think of when I'm not busy doing the actual writing.
    I almost always come up with the ending before I start writing the actual book.
    When I get stuck on a scene, particularly action, I use a free software program like Mindmap to help organize my jumbled thoughts.

    Even though I know the ending already, doesn't mean there aren't some surprises. When I planned my current novel, I wanted the MC to succumb to the "dark side" before she smartens up, but the more I wrote the character, the more I realized how out of character that would be for her, so I had to change things.

    Mostly, I think I just write everything down so I won't forget. ;)

  25. This probably won't help but I do both. lol

    Most of the time I just write and let it flow (although I'm an edit as I go writer and have been known to rewrite the same scene or chapter at least five times before moving on)...but I also more or less plot out the scenes that will follow. For example I'll jot notes down like: Jesse follows Michael to the hospital; later meets up with Dora; Jesse and Dora follow up on interviews Stuff like that...just a barebones idea of who is in the next scene and what will happen, then I write it (and edit it to death..haha).
    Uh...did any of that make sense??
    Right now I'm in Act 2 of a three act structure and it's making me nuts!

    so..good luck to ya!

  26. Ditto Michael. Never insult the muse, but when you stall back to basics. I'm a list maker. Character lists, scene lists, resource lists, resource internet site lists, word count list. I've more xcell sheets than an accountant. I outline in color coded excel too.

    If you're visual, hands on type, try a huge stand up thick poster board. Draw a huge arch on it and start plastering it with colored post it notes. Problem: it tends to end up on the dinner table.

    No one believes me, but if the muse wanders, I go to sleep with the problem in my mind. By morning, I've got my answer and sometimes I wake up with three to four layers of the plot/character internalized, ready to set the muse off again. Hey, don't knock it. Might work for you. I did several years of dream charting though before I learned to control it.

  27. For my novel, I made a plan after I was about three-quarters the way through. The plan was flexible, of course, but it helped me get a better focus on where I was going, and it got me through a terrible case of writer's block. =)

  28. I let my fingers and head just go for it and see what happens. Then I separate it into chapters and add titles. To make sure there’s no problem, I write the synopsis. I find this helps to show any problems with plot. I then edit, and do my hundred or so re-writes.

  29. I like the idea of drawing a picture; that works for my visual brain side. Mostly I'm a serious planner and know the primary plot twists before I start. That said, extensive editing left my main scenes intact on the first novel but drastically altered on the second. Now I'm on the third and for the first time I don't have a clear map and I'm feeling a bit lost even though I'm please with my first 60 pages. Thanks for all the helpful ideas. I'm sure one of them will work!

  30. Oh, I forgot to mention lists. I use them all the time and find they help, even if it's to determine what I don't want to do.

  31. I use embarrassment as a tool. Once a week I meet with my critique group. I prefer good reviews. I always have 5 double spaced pages of usually one scene. Okay you may say that's not a lot to get the book done on time. Yes, but it's just a stop gap. I can write one scene a day, but I always spend an extra day on refining the one I'm going to read. If things become horrendous for the week, well at least I have something to show.

    My outline is in my head. I wrote a bullet list of scenes, but find I don't visit with it (much), because the characters demand to be spanked. So far I've presented to the critique group the ms. in its proper sequence for nearly ten months and I'm almost done.

    This may not work for some genres. I 'm writing a romance. Romances are easy, right? Boy meets girl/loses girl/reunites/lives happily ever after. Whoops, I just gave away the story.

  32. I am using small scraps of paper or notecards to write one sentence for every scene I need. That gives me enough room for inventing lots of additional stuff but keeps me focused on getting to the goal I am aiming for (and wrapping up all my story lines and keeping true to my theme). Of course it is easier to do that before you start writing because you can then adapt the outline but you can also write notecards after you started writing the novel. Notecards have another big advantage: you can shuffle them ;-)

  33. 1 other note on the critique group idea. I bring 5 pages. They suggest additions or deletions. This could take a third day. That leaves four other days or four other scenes. This can be 5000 words in a week. In ten weeks 50,000 words, well I didn't produce at that rate, but the better you get the quicker your pace.

  34. I'm a pantser and wrote the first draft as it came to me. The original ending is now about 3 chapters from the actual ending.

    When I finished that, it went all over the place. Now that the characters have told me the story, I'm going back and mapping it all out, seeing where I can ramp up the conflict and making sure things revolve around the theme.

  35. When I first drafted the first four and a half novels in my series, I didn't stop to plot anything. Just wrote and wrote.

    Maybe that's what you need to do. Just write. Then go back and fix it up. Get it out first.