1. NHRonin
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    NHRonin New Member

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    Outlining a story vs. having an idea

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by NHRonin, Apr 8, 2007.

    How do you folks write? I know a lot of authors meticulously outline a book chapter by chapter. I use to do that but I found that as I got better, it had very little value and a waste of time.

    Now I'm at the point where I generally have a beginning, middle and end and go with it. As I move through the book, I let the story dictate where I need to go.

    I had this discussion with Robert B. Parker and he said he doesn't even have that. He has an idea like "Spenser looks for a missing pot of gold" and starts writing.

    At his level, I'm sure he has a ghost writer filling in a lot of the story as he cranks out five books a year.
     
  2. Crazy Ivan
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    Crazy Ivan Contributing Member

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    Um, you've basically just restated this topic: http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=22

    Cheggidout. It'll have the answer to your questions.
     
  3. Evelyn
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    Evelyn Senior Member

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    You have friendly little writerly chats with Robert B. Parker?!
    (Excuse me while I wipe up some of this awed and jealous drool :)


    Usually I start with an idea ("Jack and Jill went up the hill"), and often the first line, or paragraph, or few pages are busy writing themselves in my head ("Jill tossed the empty pail to Jack as she scrambled past him on the hillside trail. He fielded it neatly, tossing it back as he now passed her. This game carried them all the way to the spring of sweet water halfway up the steep slope.")

    Then my ideas start coming so much faster than I can type that I start making notes ahead ("More horseplay cause Jack to slip, head striking stone (severity of head injury?). Jill falls also - is she injured? Who needed the water, and what happens when they don't get it - or is pail somehow unspilt? J & J are siblings? lovers? colleagues?...")

    Pretty soon I need a page of notes for each character ("Jack Trepan, 14. 5' 9". 135 lb. Blue eyes, brown hair. Steel plate in skull. Strong tendency towards horseplay."), and I start breaking my notes and partial drafts down by chapter headings ("Ch. 6: Jack Starts Brain Injury Rehab").

    After I do bunch of that, pretty soon I need to print it all out, figure out how much of it there is and where each bit goes, and put all into one or two 3-ring binders. (I have a story I need to do this with now, but first I have to clear off the dining table so I'll have a place to work :)

    Then I'm more-or-less organized, and just keeping adding to the various sections under my binder section tabs :)

    I've never heard of anyone else working like this: it's just what I do.

    :) Evelyn
     
  4. Domoviye
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    Domoviye Contributing Member

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    I get an image in my head. A blind woman running through a pitch black factory as zombies howl below her. A little boy hiding in a tree house as the world collapses. A little kid yelling into a toy radio lost in the woods.
    I work away at it until I come up with a workable story, and the image (heavily changed usually) forms a critical scene, either for the end, middle or beginning, and serves as an anchor for everything else. Everything else is built around it. So minimal plotting, but its not completely absent.
     
  5. NHRonin
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    NHRonin New Member

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    I wish I had the friendly little chats with Parker but I bugged him after a signing and he was gracious enough to give me a five minutes. I probably could have had more but I didn't want to be a pest.

    As for your process, wow! That's a lot of work. I'd never find the time to actually write if I did it your way but hey, whatever works for you.
     
  6. Evelyn
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    Evelyn Senior Member

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    I should have said that's for a novel, where I need to keep track of what I'm doing and what I've done over months & years, and I usually have a bunch of research I need to kept track of, too.

    For a short story it depends:
    One, for which the idea lept pretty much full grown into my head, has about a page of notes, so that I could keep track of which name belonged to who, and for a few scribbled research notes.

    (Well, all the research notes, and character notes, and "What Happens In Chapter 8" notes, are pretty much scribbled or else typed without much care for spelling or anything else ("Ch, 8: jill attracted ot jacks phys therapist, but not tready to break engagnemt with jacvk,Has torrid affgair with PT during huge hospital water chortage caused buy borken city main." - hey, *I* can understand that :))

    One, which is based on a "Dinner with a Celebrity" idea, is merely the rough draft and a bunch of post-its in biographies marking points or quotes I want to incorporate.

    One; which I have characters and a setting and a running joke for, but no plot; is gaining pages and pages of scribbles as I try to figure out where these people want to go.


    When I do Flash Fiction, it's generally thought up, typed out, and done (albeit maybe not all that well :)


    To express one thought,
    haikus take even less time
    for full completion.


    :) Evelyn
     

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