Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Outlines and Plotlines

It's been a while since I've written a complicated plot-driven story. I'm more a short-story writer who writes one-shots (single chapter pieces) or stories w/12 short chapters at most. But I think the plot hippos (which are plot idea bunnies on steroids) have decided to visit from Africa and they've pitched camp in front of my keyboard.

People ask me if I outline my stories before I write them. The short answer: not really. I have a beginning, an end goal, and then I find out how to get from point A to point B. Interesting things pop us as I write that wouldn't fit in any outline...and so my first draft resembles a weird road map. My husband describes it as "how the drunk cow staggers from point A to point B, not how the crow flies." Rough drafts are just thatrough drafts. Everything and anything goes, and editing happens much later.

I know a writer who outlines everything that will happen in his story, explains every plot point and makes meticulous notes before he starts writing. Another friend adopts the "whatever happens spills on the page" method. Normally, I fall more on the latter end of the spectrum. If the fiction piece isn't a long one, that approach just works better for me. I suppose I take more of a holistic view of the process.

Now, if I'm writing a non-fiction article, or a long novel, I end up doing a lot more "prep work". I make sure all of my research is in order and plan out exactly how it will appear on the computer screen. I use a computer program called Writer's Block , which helps organize my thoughts. Its format reminds me of someone using index cards to put information in order, and you can toggle between "block mode", manuscript mode, or split screen. It's pretty convenient.

For this particular project, it began as "write as I go" to "oh boy, what was this guy's name? What about this plot and how does it affect this...?" So I find myself being more left-brained, more methodical in my writing approach. This shift in gears is so gradual that I'm not usually aware of it, but it always surprises me and amuses my (left-brained, practical) engineer husband. Yes, I'm capable of being "organized" when I need to be.

And I think I'll need to definitely rein in the scattered threads into a coherent plot. For my own sanity's sake.

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

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