Posts Tagged ‘writing a book’

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Are you an outliner or seat-of-the-pants writer?

When you begin your story or novel, do you use an outline to guide your writing or do you just begin and let the ideas/characters/plot take you in the direction of the story? Letting the story go along with no pre-planning means you are writing by the seat-of-your-pants thus gaining the title of a “pantser.”  We have lots of discussions at The Writers Chatroom among the newcomers and regular attendees of the Wednesday evening chats, as well as guest authors on Sunday nights,  as to the best method of writing a story or novel.

In an article by Robert Campbell, Outlining,  in Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America, this mystery writer admits he never used an outline. He preferred William Faulkner’s method of setting his characters on the road and “walk beside them, listening to what they have to say.” Campbell admits writing without an outline causes him to start down paths that lead to dead ends, but he discovers a lot about a character spending time on pages upon pages that he may have to discard. However, he feels that at least, he exercised the writing muscles.

Later in his writing Campbell discovered outlining using his “word processor” or even hand writing a simple outline. He also makes up documents before starting the story such as Chronology, Cast of Characters, Address Book, Timeline of History, Notebook and Agenda which “sketches the goals, desires and probable actions of each principal character as I move through the body of the book.” He builds on each of these documents as the work-in-progress (WIP) evolves.  Campbell cautions that at no time is anything engraved in stone. He remains flexible with each chapter.

It really makes no difference whether you need a map, guidelines, outline or just an idea to freely write a story. The important thing is to write. Don’t be paralyzed by constructing an outline, then never writing the story. With no outline, you may write paragraphs, pages, chapters, etc that will need to be cut for the final draft. But many authors incorporate those leftover pages into another future story.

Pleeeeeezzzz…just write! It’s in you. What a shame if you don’t let it out on the page.

Writing a Book

I found a great quote for writers in Susan Wittig Albert’s book, Writing from Life.

Writing a book is like scrubbing an elephant:  there’s no good place to begin or end, and it’s hard to keep track of what you’ve already covered.–Anonymous

Ain’t that the truth?  I have read and re-read my novella making sure that I have covered everything and told the story clearly so a reader can follow it.  But I always struggle with tying up the story with a satisfying ending.  The best way of deciding if the ending is what a reader wants is to ask someone(s) to read the book and get an opinion.  I know your mom or Aunt Edith will always say they liked it, so you need to get a reader who is capable of actually telling you the shortcomings AND the good points about the story.  The reader will be able to tell you if the ending makes sense and if you completed the book satisfactorily.

I know it is difficult to let someone else read your writing.  I know it is hard to put your “baby” out in the world to be criticized, mocked, or–look at it this way–praised and lifted up as beautiful.  Just put on your armor and send out that writing.  Even if someone doesn’t like it, you have the opportunity to work on it and make it better.  There is no shame in having to re-work the story when your reader(s) make a salient point.

Try it.  Afterall, are you writing for your own enjoyment or are you writing to give others joy?