Monday, November 14, 2005

You Can't Get There From Here

On the cw-biz list Anastasia Suen asked the question "When you write do you outline or not? In my case the answer is not.

This has made me think about how I write. My technique, if you can call it that, isn't very organized. I have tried on occasion to pull all of the ingredients for a story together with outlines, character studies, maps, etc. but it just didn't work. The planning took on a life of its own. The story never materialized. Sometimes I may use one or more of these tools to work out a problem I'm having, but that is usually after the story is written.

When I write I start with a basic idea: Jane doesn't like broccoli so she feeds it to the dog. Then I start writing. I have a sense of how long is too long, so I write until I either run out of story or I feel it is longer than it should be. I take a word count and if the story is too long, but it is not finished, I go back and start cutting. I work back and forth between story and word count until it all comes together.

Everything comes to me as I sit at the keyboard. The story takes shape in my head as I type. I can't write by hand because I write too slowly. The keyboard is the only way. I would like to say I write it all the way through without editing, but that isn't true. Any interruption that makes it necessary for me to reread what is written will bring about some editing along the way. Most of that editing is minor.

After the story is finished I go back to look at the necessary elements. Is there a good hook? Does it begin in the action? Are the characters real? Are they distinct personalities? Is the location visible in the story. Can I see, hear, feel, smell, taste the story? Does the story flow? Is there a theme? Have I used any unnecessary words? Did the protag solve the problem without an adults help? Is there a satisfying ending?

Often the title changes many times during the writing. Titles are so important, and I confess that I am not very good at them. I usually start with a title, but often by the end of the piece I realize the title gives away too much or is just plain boring. Then you have to go back and pick through all of the bits and pieces until you find the one that is just right. Sometimes you can't know the title until the story ends. It's a case of "you can't get there from here".

(c) 2005 Sharon A. Soffe

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