Writing Without a Net

I haven’t had a whole lot to say here lately because, well, I’ve been busy. Not with writing, of course – perhaps if I was busy with that I might have more to blog about – but busy with career things, with job application things, with terribly mundane things I wish I didn’t have to pay attention to. It’s only in my “spare time” that I’ve been able to work on finishing my last edits… and I have a super fun announcement to make tomorrow morning regarding the book. You only get one guess what it is, though, because it should be terribly freaking obvious by now.

I have, of course, already started Book 2. After I finished Tragedy and had it sent off to my beta readers, I couldn’t wait to dive into the sequel, Suffering. The first few chapters are floating around already, but on a recent cross-country plane ride I discovered that 90% of what I’ve written in Suffering needs to be tossed, and the end of Tragedy needed to be tweaked.

I say ‘tweaked,’ but if anyone becomes attached to these characters it’s going to amount to more than just a minor difference. However, if the change isn’t made then Book 2’s plot simply doesn’t work (or doesn’t work without a lot of ridiculous retconning). Of course, tweaking Tragedy by adding one scene to the end is no big thing for that book – but it means losing most of what I’ve written in Suffering. You would think that losing 90% of what I worked on would bother me, but as I reflected on the changes I’m making, it’s really quite normal for me.

That leads me into the brief discussion topic of this post. All authors have a different method of writing. The wonderful, beautiful, fantastical podcast Writing Excuses recently did a show entitled Digging Yourself Out of Holes’ which explored this topic a bit. As they explain in the podcast, there are folks who outline before writing, termed ‘architects,’ and there are those who write without a really firm plan, a method termed ‘discovery writing.’ Naturally people can fall anywhere on the spectrum between the two; not everyone is either strictly structural or wild and crazy stream-of-consciousness. As you see above, in my case, I lean more towards the latter. I like to think of it as writing without a net.

Part of that has to do with my inner nature. I’m a person who likes to intuitively feel through situations, and focusing on details makes me awfully bored (reason #1 why I hated anatomy class). Writing is my fun hobby on the side, and while I’m sure I’d be more efficient if I planned everything out, I would also be a lot less motivated to do it.  Not planning is more exciting, but the downside is that I probably went though 5 radically different scenarios for the story in Tragedy before I found the “true” story (really, the one that made any sense). I’ve got tomes of discarded writing scraps between the drafts of Tragedy and the drafts of my probably-never-to-be-published first novel, 4012.

How do I write if I have no structure? I have goals. I start stories with two things in mind – an image of the first scene and an image of the last scene. The adventure is in trying to get from beginning to end and making it all sensical. Sometimes this means I’ll get running on a premise that I really like, and then I outline a few chapters ahead to remind myself of my train of thought. Those outlines are pretty flexible, though, and usually consist of dialogue clips or one particular image that needs to be described. Interestingly enough, my original final scene did not make it into Tragedy even though I was working towards it for the entire book, even in the final draft. Things just didn’t quite pan out that way. The result is quite satisfying to me, though, and hopefully it’ll be satisfying to you.

So that’s my little spiel for the day. Keep an eye out tomorrow… that’s all I’m sayin’.

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