domingo, 17 de fevereiro de 2008

Planning and Outlining

I'm not an organic writer. I cannot just sit down and start writing and pull off a novel that way. I've tried a couple of times, generally for NaNoWriMo. It just doesn't work. The text gets to 5000 to 10000 words and then I just don't know where to go. I need structure to make my writing function; I need an outline, and I need a timetable, otherwise, the writing process just drags on and on and I end up losing interest.

I try not to overplot. Generally, my outlines are more like a telling of the story in the Present, a kind of draft zero. I tend to use the phase outline I picked up on Lazette Gifford's book Nano For The New And The Insane, slightly modified according to the project.

And mostly it works well; it gives me the guide line I need, without stiffling my creativity too. Also, the phase method allows me to plan my work better. If I want to finish a first draft by a certain date, I just calculate the number of phases I need to do a day.

The outlines have another advantage: for me, it's much easier to rearrange events and spot missing scenes while still in outline form than once you have the whole book written.

Sometimes, though, I'll be so excited about a project that I'll start writing it before the outline is completely finished. That's what I did with Mountains to Climb. I had an outline, of sorts. The story started by being a script; when I decided that I wanted to turn it into a novel, I needed to expand the original outline, but I thought I could start working on the first draft right away. It was a big mistake.

The writing has become increasingly difficult. I've been chalking it up to insecurity: if it's not finished, no one can tell you it stinks. Yesterday, though, I was forced to confront the fact that the problem might be another altogether.

I was trying to do a synopsys to put in the site. I did do one, but it's weak, inadequate and unappealing. And the thing that has been nibbling at the back of my brain just stepped up to the front: there are problems with the outline, there are some great bits of story there, but the whole doesn't feel like a whole, and there are some points that are simply bullshit. And if I, the writer, think they're bullshit, how are the readers going to react?

I had planned to finish the first draft of MTC a little before the end of March and then start working on The Starlight Ring, so that I had the first draft of that one finished sometime around the end of April, beginning of May. Clearly that is no longer an option, so I had to reevaluate my plans.

The conclusion I came to was that I should leave MTC alone and start working on TSR immediately. By my calculations, I should have it finished sometime in mid March. By that time, I should've gained some distance from MTC and be able to make a better assessment of what is wrongt and what I can do to fix it.

domingo, 3 de fevereiro de 2008

Being a writer

A few months back, someone at one of the fora I go to regularly asked the question "Why do you write?". The answers were many and varied, and generally quite long too. All I could come up with was:

I write because not writing simply isn't an option.

Today I was again made aware of how true this is, of how much writing is ingrained into me.

I was watching some documentary on Borneo. The usual: elephants, monkeys and apes, bugs aplenty. And there was also a group of people climbing a plateau in the middle of the jungle to study the unique ecosystem at the top.

The leader was going on about how they had to be careful about loose rocks, not only because they risked losing their balance, but mostly because of the danger of making one of those rocks fall on the head of the people coming behind. My immediate thought was: if you were a climber, and there was someone in the group whom you didn't like, that would be a good way of doing away with them and making it look like an accident.

I was reminded of the old joke about the woman whose husband ran away with the maid and her first reaction was turning it into a story. Not writing is not an option, see.

I'm always writing. Even when I'm not actually sitting down at the computer, or with a notebook and pen, I'm still writing, because putting the words on paper is just the tip of the iceberg.

So, basically, when you're a writer, there are no off hours. The writing is in every thing, it's always there, even if you're not aware of it. It's a rather strange symbiosis in a way: the writing takes over your life and gives you 1000 lives in return. Certainly a good deal.

The dowside? If you're not writing, you hardly feel alive at all.