Saturday, March 26, 2011

The value of outlining

So...I've never been an outlining type of person.  In all my years of writing I've always been a seat of the pants kind of writer.  I mean, even when I wrote reports in grade school I would just kind of write from my heart and do the research as I went along.  If there was something that I needed to know based on where my train of thought took me, I'd look it up and keep writing.

I guess I should have picked up on the fact that just winging it wasn't the way to go when my dad, a teacher, would take to my papers with a red pen, and my papers would end up looking like a writer's murder scene.  They would be slashed to bloody ribbons by the point of his red pen; the evidence of terror my heart felt words suffered dripping from the end of his felt tipped instrument of torture.  But, oblivious to the error of my ways, I would simply make the corrections he suggested, get an A on my paper, and make the same mistakes the next time.

Apparently, my ability to write short pieces in this manner improved over the years, but long fiction seems to take a little more finesse. Now, for my book, I believe firmly in write what you know.  Or at least write what you can ask people about.  That requires less research.  I'm not good at research.  Well, that's not exactly right.  I'm very good at research, but I do too much.  I get sidetracked, move in new directions, find exciting things, and before I know it, a whole day is gone.

Anywho...that leaves the characters.  There seem to be three main parts to the book.  The storyworld, the plot, and the characters.  The characters so far seem to be giving me fits.  It seems, to me anyway, that the characters drive the plot.  Now, if you properly build your characters, give them a real life, give them depth, then your plot should follow to some extent.

That's where outlines come in.  You've got to give your character a reason for living, and something to fight against.  Now, I honestly believe that there are some writers that can do this by the seat of their pants.  But as I delve deeper into the world of writing, structure and character development, I'm finding that in order to truly build a believable situation I might need a bit more.

I think that I'll still be a seat of the pants kind of writer.  I can't work from a hard outline.  I'm not a planner. (Unlike my husband who has spreadsheets outlining every minute of our trips to Disneyworld)  But I think that maybe a rough outline might be a good idea.  Something that gives me a little direction, give me an idea about where my characters are going and what they are fighting against.  I think that may give my book the structure it needs to really work.


K.R.B said...

I always did what was required of me in school... outlining, appropriate annotations, etc. It made me into a hardcore perfectionist... which made it extremely difficult when I DID start writing fiction. Yes, I knew where I wanted my story to go. Yes, I jotted down key points I wanted to include... but I certainly didn't outline. It felt too structured... didn't feel right at all. So I wrote "by the seat of my pants" and just refined later... ;)

So, you're not alone in that respect... and there's always room for improvement, right?

LinneaHall said...

Alway room for improvement! Even now, rereading my published book I think DOH! Should've, would've, could've. But rather than rewrite the past, I'm going to move into the future, and maybe revisit that book later....

Talina Perkins said...

I am definitely a plotter and planner when it comes to my writing. I have to have that yellow brick road to follow. It is strange to see that in other areas of my life I am not as well organized. Frustrating really!

I get teased a lot for my writing method, but it works for me. I do wish I could write by the seat of my pants though. I envy you this!

Great post today, Linnea!

LinneaHall said...

Talina - I envy you your ability to plan Sometimes, with SOTP writing, I don't know which way to go. I feel like I am drawn in several different directions which makes it difficult. And sometimes, I'll head down a path just to find it was the wrong one, and have to go all the way back to the branch and start again...


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