Tags:
  1. LonelyWriter
    Offline

    LonelyWriter New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2014
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA

    Style Planning vs. Spontaneity when beginning a new novel

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by LonelyWriter, Jun 23, 2014.

    This has by far been my greatest struggle as a writer and an issue that deeply impacted me as I was penning down my latest novel.

    A part of me loves to plan out a novel to the last detail possible. I like to storyboard my chapters and then for each chapter I pen down key plot events in the right sequence. On top of this overall storyboard I superimpose character arches - the entry, development and in some cases exit of a character.

    When I actually sit down to write, the part of me doing the writing loves to rebel and disregard the storyboard and character arches I just created. To be honest, this disregard of a structure makes the writing more enjoyable because I find myself taking my story into brave new directions without a clue what's coming next. I'm as entertained as my reader would be because like her / him I am being taken on a ride to places I have never seen nor heard of!

    This works great for say 25% of the novel and then I start getting into trouble. Now the parallel story lines are not tying up. The character arches are all over the place and I have no clue how I'm going to end.

    Please help and share experiences!
     
  2. nippy818
    Offline

    nippy818 Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2014
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    colorado
    When i outline i start with a general idea of what i want the novel to be about. after that i timeline the entire thing and begin adding details. Each character gets a color code so when i break out the three ring binder with all the chapters spaced out i can label each character that is in that chapter and at what point in their character arch they are in. i then go through i make mini time lines for each chapter as if it were its own short story. after all the details and landmarks are made i connect the dots with storytelling a get to writing.
     
    LonelyWriter likes this.
  3. LonelyWriter
    Offline

    LonelyWriter New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2014
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    Thanks, nippy818. I like the idea of looking at chapters as self contained short stories. And also that of creating mini storyboards for chapters.
     
  4. nippy818
    Offline

    nippy818 Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2014
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    colorado
    i have to say after i outline i can knock out a chapter in a few hours. its a trick i learned writing comic books
     
  5. Amanda_Geisler
    Offline

    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2014
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    105
    Location:
    Australia
    I have trouble with outlining too. I find that even if I do manage to write an outline I go completely off course. So now I have stopped outlining I just give myself a basic idea of where the novel needs to end and the rest of the story leading to that is spontaneous, sometimes I don't even know the ending. Like I am now over 50,000 words into the second novel of my trilogy and I only just worked out how I want it to end, now its my job to start leading it into the ending.

    I like being spontaneous about it because it makes it feel like this is somebody else's novel that I am reading. I can be as surprised by the storyline as any reader would be, and that's what makes writing fun for me.

    So for you I say that it is really a personal thing. Nobody can tell you that you have to write an outline, some of the greatest authors plan everything before they write even a single word, but there are also plenty of authors that do no planning at all. You just need to find what works for you.

    Amanda
     
    LonelyWriter likes this.
  6. nippy818
    Offline

    nippy818 Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2014
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    colorado
    @Amanda_Geisler i wish i was able to be more spontaneous. i have lived with deadlines for to long lol perhaps ill try writing a short story without planning it out.
     
  7. Amanda_Geisler
    Offline

    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2014
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    105
    Location:
    Australia
    I don't even really mean to be. I just gave up on outlining because it never worked. But like I was saying, everybody works in different ways. You've found yours, it works don't stray from it or you could get blocked (trust me it happened to me). Just do things your way and as long as you get the results you want you shouldn't try to do what other people are doing.
     
  8. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    Which writing do you prefer? Is it trying to force the spontaneous story into the planned story that causes problems? Then why try? Go with the one you're enjoying most, because that's probably the one that's going to be the better written of the two. Go ahead and use elements from the other if you want to, if it fits, but don't try to force the two to work together.
     
    LonelyWriter likes this.
  9. xanadu
    Offline

    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2008
    Messages:
    552
    Likes Received:
    407
    Location:
    Cave of Ice
    Figuring out your process is a difficult but critical part of writing. Until you find out what way gets words down on the page and pushes you to The End, you'll be floundering. I know I certainly was. But everybody has a way that works for him or her, and a lot of it comes down to what inspires you and what keeps you focused. Some prefer to outline, because without it they'd be lost and unable to get anywhere. Some find outlines restricting and need the freedom of improvisation to feel inspired. Some need a few guideposts here and there. There's a whole range. You just need to figure out where you fall on that range. Once you've got a rhythm down, it really does get easier because you feel comfortable with what you're doing and confident that you're actually getting somewhere.

    Personally, I usually have the main actors in mind and a sense of conflict. I usually have a few key scenes in mind, as well. I figure out how I want to start, and then I go for it. As I'm writing I try to figure out which of the scenes in my head will be coming up next, and then I'll write my way to it. Sometimes those scenes need to change or adapt, which I'm usually very willing to do.

    But that's just me.
     
    LonelyWriter and nippy818 like this.
  10. LonelyWriter
    Offline

    LonelyWriter New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2014
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    Amanda_Geisler It is great to know that there are others out there who do not want to be shackled by the bounds imposed by an outline! What you're saying about the joy of reading your novel as you are writing it is exactly my motivation to write. I think I'll build a process around spontaneity and not worry too much about planning.
     
  11. LonelyWriter
    Offline

    LonelyWriter New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2014
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    xanadu Really appreciate you sharing these insights with me. I think I am struggling to find the right rhythm like you said. It's good to know that there are others who struggle with this problem.

    Also, I love what you said about 'having the main actors in mind and a sense of conflict'. That's very powerful to me and something I have not been successful to create so far in my writing. I am focusing on character development these days with the ultimate objective of creating living, breathing beings in my mind that take a life of their own and a story flows naturally out of their interactions with each other.
     
    xanadu likes this.
  12. Amanda_Geisler
    Offline

    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2014
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    105
    Location:
    Australia
    It's something that everybody struggles with for the first few years, now I am not an expert I have just done a lot of research over the last few years. It will take time for you find your style, it took me several years to find mine and now I've written more in this year then I have in the last six years. I've written over 130,000 words this year. My first novel is finished, ready and waiting to be sent off to agents, I just want to wait until I have the rest of the series completed, and with any luck that be by the end of this year and I will look to get published next year.

    So don't rush to find your rhythm, you already know that outlines don't work. You might find that complete spontaneity doesn't work either, you might a blend of something in between. Actually that is where most authors sit, you just need to find out how much structure you need.
     
    LonelyWriter likes this.
  13. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    I'm 'winging it' with my current story. I deliberately didn't plan a thing, all I have is the main character and a snippet of her memory and two others broadly conceptualised. I wanted to write it out spontaneously, to keep myself entertained and interested. But I'm also writing a synopsis as I go along. So after each chapter, I summarise it event by event, a couple hundred words at most. This way, I won't get lost or have to sift through pages and pages trying to stay consistent, plus, I'll have a draft of my synopsis at the end as well.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2014
    LonelyWriter likes this.
  14. Amanda_Geisler
    Offline

    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2014
    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    105
    Location:
    Australia
    LonelyWriter likes this.
  15. ddavidv
    Offline

    ddavidv Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2013
    Messages:
    353
    Likes Received:
    239
    Location:
    Pennsylvania, USA
    I tried writing without an outline in my past, and I never finished a damn thing!

    I now create basic outlines, but they are not rigid. I tend to have 'scenes' in my head, and making an outline helps me place them in a logical sequence. I may have bits of dialogue I invent and will pepper those in where I think they should go as well. But, my outline is merely a guide; it's purpose is to direct the basic story but not define it. I let my characters grow and move through the story on their own, but their purpose certainly needs to be defined up front. There is conflict, steps and roadblocks to solving it, and an ending. The 'filler' I never outline or rigidly map out; it just sort of happens.

    I can't do it without story and character outlines, but I also know not to force myself to rigidly follow the outlines if the story doesn't want to go the same way. Adjustments are made on the fly as needed.
     
    LonelyWriter likes this.
  16. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,681
    Likes Received:
    2,533
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    First, storyboards are not typically good planning devices for a novel. They are static depictions of one moment in a scene, a device from film-making (and even in film-making, their purpose is not to plan the story). Second, if you plan too rigidly, you wall off the natural growth that can take place in a story, both to the characters and the plot, as new ideas occur to you. And, finally, a novel is not just a collection of short stories. A collection of short stories is...well, a collection of short stories.

    My current project, now nearing completion of a 3rd draft, is a historical novel spanning 500 years. Lots of planning. I identified the time periods to use, the main conflicts to take place in them, major historical figures and fictional characters, and both the historical and fictional timelines for each. I devised a twelve-chapter outline, with a nice title for each chapter that would play off the mc for each historical era and the main event of each modern-day chapter.

    And then I started writing.

    It wasn't long before I realized that my chapter outline was constraining a really interesting new subplot that had literally just popped into my head. I tried to write it and not upset the outline, but I soon realized that if I didn't make some change to the chapter outline, it was going to choke my novel to death. So I smushed (a technical term) three chapters into two to make room for it. But it had later implications I hadn't counted on and didn't want to lose. Before I knew it, twelve chapters had mushroomed to fifteen.

    Then eighteen.

    Finally twenty.

    I ditched the chapter titles and went with numbers, stopped worrying if all the historical eras were of roughly the same length. Eventually, I stopped thinking about the outline altogether, because it had served its purpose: it had provided a framework around which to build a story until the story was strong enough to stand on its own. The key was to be flexible enough to be able to take advantage of new ideas.
     
  17. archerfenris
    Offline

    archerfenris Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2013
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    67
    Location:
    Savannah, GA
    This. My view entirely. Just like you, I'm at the quarter mark of my first novel. It's fantasy and therefore a little larger word count wise than if I was writing a mystery or something. I began with an idea. Then a character. This evolved into a world with multiple characters, plots, and sub-plots. I wrote it down, made character sheets, and the outline for the chapters with what occurs in each chapter.

    It's been a year now since I began the project and the story only slightly resembles what it started as. I dropped entire sub plots, characters completely changed, and I even gave the boot to the "main antagonist" because I realized the antagonist's side-kick was entirely better. The only thing that hasn't changed is the original cast of characters (though "who" they are has changed) and the main idea of the plot. But like Ed said. I'm glad I got my story on paper in an outline because it gave birth to what it is now, which is vastly different from what it started as.
     
    LonelyWriter likes this.
  18. LonelyWriter
    Offline

    LonelyWriter New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2014
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    @EdFromNY Thanks for the insights into your creative process!
     
  19. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,681
    Likes Received:
    2,533
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Hope it helps.
     
  20. TDFuhringer
    Offline

    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    589
    Likes Received:
    262
    Location:
    Somewhere South of Midnight
    I do both.

    During my first draft, I know at least three scenes in my head, one of which is hopefully at or near the climax, giving me something to aim for. But the story unfolds naturally, without an outline.

    During my first revision, I know how the story goes and I write an outline based on what I've written. From that I create a new outline and revise the manuscript until it conforms to the new outline.

    Best of both worlds I think.
     

Share This Page