Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Where I'm At

Not including the many story tidbits- basically a line or two here and a paragraph there- filed away on my computer, I have one “finished” novel (from National Novel Writing Month 2005) and three in the works. The completed novel is a stinker. I mean, it’s bad. I wrote and wrote and wrote in order to hit the 50,000 word mark and the end product is hot, incoherent mess. I still love the basic premise and while I intend to beat the story with a serious editing stick at some point, my writing these days is focused on my works in progress.

Because I am not under contract (yet), I tend to flit between the three stories I have going. I will work on one until I hit a stumbling block and then I will open up another one, work on that a while, move on to the third and then it’s back to the first. That’s clearly the most efficient and productive way to write, right? Right?? For those of you with multiple stories in progress, how do you pick and choose which one you work on?

What it boils down to is that I let myself off the hook too easily when I get blocked or frustrated. I know this, yet I still do it, still walk away when I need to stay and concentrate and bust through whatever it is that is holding me back. Because I will never finish if I don’t change how I work. I’m pinning the blame on my inner editor and lack of substantive story planning. For now, I’m going to focus on the latter.

How do you come up with your beginnings, middles and endings? Do you just let the story flow out of your head as you write or do you prepare a detailed outline complete with chapter descriptions? When I get an idea in my head, it’s usually just the beginning of the story. For the three that I have going right now I do not know what will happen next. While that can lead to interesting twists and turns, in my case it is leading to a lot of nothing. I know now that I need more structure to be productive. I don’t know that I want- or need- a very detailed outline, but at the very least I need to start thinking more about the story I am telling and how it needs to flow. So my goal for this week is to choose one of my stories and give serious thought as to an outline. If you have sites or templates you like, please share; I am a blank slate (kind of like my stories) and want to soak up as much as I can.


Samantha said...

I sometimes have the same issue. I'll start a project, write three chapters and then some other idea which sounds like more fun to write pops into my head, so I drop WIP #1 and switch to #2.

If I create a very detailed plot outline, then I feel like I've already written the book. I tend to make notes on what the beginning, how it's going to end, and then maybe ideas of some key scenes in between.

Sheila said...

I usually try to have at least a beginning and an ending in mind when I start a story. What happens in between is often subject to change.

For the last thing I wrote, I actually had an outline of sorts; at least, a list of major scenes and what needs to happen in them. I worried that this might stifle my creativity, so I was surprised when it didn't. In fact, with the basic road map down, I found that my mind was more open to "side trips" -- snippets of backstory and character development that really helped flesh them out.

On the other hand, given how long that particular story currently is, maybe that *wasn't* A Good Thing?