The Weekender: Oct 18 – 19


This weekend, I want to delve into a two-part ‘Weekender’ that I think everyone will want to chime in about: writing method. This is something that everyone who writes has an opinion about and more importantly a style they follow.

In the past with everything I have written, it has been organically. My philosophy has been ‘I don’t know what is happening in the next paragraph’ in all my writing. I literally didn’t have a clue what my characters would be doing next and I would let the story go where it wanted to go. Most of my work wasn’t read by anyone so I really never got feedback on this aspect of my writing. Additionally, I only wrote short stories or got stuff out in ‘free writing’ sessions.

Then I decided I wanted to write a novel. This desire came to me after seeing the author Jodi Picoult with my wife. Every year at the same time, she comes to a well-known bookstore in NY and talks about her latest novel. Listening to her book and seeing what was happening, awoke a sleeping beast. I thought “hey, I could do this” and the next day I began my Robert book. I had no outline. I had no plan. All I had was a very basic idea and an ending. I didn’t really care how the book progressed as long as I got from point A to point B. Looking back on it, I’m surprised I got anything down on paper. 50,000+ words later I had a book!

It was around this time that I was in a writing group and got some actual, real feedback from people who not only cared but actually knew what the hell they were talking about. Besides some classes in college where we didn’t share work with each other, I never had someone tell me how my writing was. I remember the first comment said to me as clear as day: “Let me say first that you’re writing is really good.” That was the best validation I’ve had in a long time about my writing. The next part was getting torn up with critiques, which is cool with me. This comment didn’t pump up an ego but gave me a drive to think that I could actually continue with this journey that I had started not too long previous.

Since then, the Robert book is in flux and I’m trying to learn lessons from that endeavor. In dealing with Spirit Hackers, I’ve seen that having a game-plan helps so much. Knowing at least the direction a chapter or group of chapters needs to go, helps keep me on track and I think paces the book better. Of course I won’t know this until someone actually reads it, but I have a feeling the caliber of book will be much better than the Robert book.

The bottom line is that there are tons of people who write organically and it works best for them. I am at a crossroads right now where I honestly don’t know which method I will use but this whole structured writing deal may be the way for me. We’ll address the ‘outlining method’ next time. For now, I’d love to know what you guys think.

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  1. I don’t outline chapter by chapter, but I do take rough notes before I begin. I know the main plot at manuscript’s start, but only have hunches about sub-plots and how I’ll get to my ultimate end. Other than that, I let the story tell ME what to write. It’s an amazing thing, and worked well (if I say so myself) with Bliss Lake. I’m following the same “plan” with this next one, hopeful I’ll have the same kind of “success.”

    It IS all about finding what’s best for the individual writer. Chances are, you put 5 writers in a room, you’ll get 5 different thoughts on how things are done. It may take tweaking and adjusting, but follow your instinct (and, in some cases, muse) and see what happens. 🙂

  2. When I first decided to start writing again I assumed I was the type of writer who needed an outline. After all, as a designer I often sketched out a thumbnail before I put an actual ad/brochure/poster together, so it only made sense I’d do the same with writing.

    With my memoir I came up with chapter names and fit small stories within those, but my novel was a little more freeform. Like Janna, I took notes ahead of time and knew where I wanted the story to end up, but I wasn’t sure how he’d get there. My biggest surprise was when my MC ended up in a strip club! I really didn’t see that one coming.

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