Sunday, April 18, 2021

Fiction—Outline Haters, Try This

I was a total discovery writer when I began writing and since then have moved toward more pre-drafting preparation in my process. RR Martin says that writers are gardeners (discovery writers) or architects ( outliners) in their approach to the process of writers. 


But there is a continuum and many (most) writers will be a bit of both. I think of myself as a bit of both but recently I’ve learned things go better for me if I plan more before I start writing.


Here’s a tip: One kind of outlining in called points-on-a-map. It means that you start with four or five or ten points that you work out you will have in your novel. The last point will be your ending. Then you fill in the places in-between with whatever helps you get between each point. I’ve done a very limited version of this in the past. Maybe three or four sort of vague points.


NOW I do more.


Here’s what I advise. If you just think of your outline as made up of points you’re going to work through it makes the process a bit stagnant and inconsequential.


What I do now is try to think of these points as points I really want to get to. Imagine you come up with five places you really want to see on your trip across America. Maybe there’s something you want to do at some of these places or someone you want to visit or something you want to experience in some unique way. 


In other words make the points places you really want to get to.


Make your main points exciting and important to your story and it will help you with the filling in part. Just taking this approach, seeing the outline from this angle, can help you come up with interesting points of plot as you work through your outline and manuscript.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Use language as the camera

 I’ve heard this before from many writers but I heard it most recently from Joyce Carol Oates and the way she expressed it—and also the fact that I think her writing is often very introspective and rich as one of those buttery voiced singers—made me start thinking about how creating a picture with words for the set design of a scene is actually really important: not just for descriptive particulars but also for choosing details of a character and of what happens in the scene. It can also help with showing more and telling less.


SO here’s what she said—paraphrase—

the writer should see the scene she is writing as if she’s off to the side and has a camera. But the camera is language. Use your camera to describe what’s happening.


For me doing this has made me think more and express more about how characters move and what the place they’re moving in looks like and feels like. It also has led to my finding what they’re thinking and feeling more accurately in that moment. Use it to ground your camera, but think of it as being made of language, and show the reader you scene.