Okay, everybody knows about outlines. I used the letters-and-numbers version above. Bureaucracies, of course, like the specificity of decimals, “Please refer to section 188.8.131.52.” MSWord will automatically format these for you, if it doesn’t drive you nuts in the process by refusing to do it any other way.
I also freely admit that I never start my writing with an outline. But like Dean Lappi in his IU article, To Outline or Not to Outline, I always reach a stage in my project when I start an outline, because it’s impossible to keep it all straight in my head. My outlines in the past have been linear, like the left-hand column above.
The structure of every story follows the pattern of the average human emotional experience. That pattern is the same, whether it’s a first kiss, eating a chocolate bar, having sex, or reading a full-length novel. Hollywood scriptwriters have found this pattern, follow it, and often make great heaps of money for their producers by doing so.
But how does this help the novel writer? We’re all much more “seat of the pants,” aren’t we? Creative, innovative, never following the crowd? Well, yes, we all have an intuitive grasp of the idea, or we wouldn’t be writers. But my experience is that a formula helps you most when you discover you’ve screwed up. Be as creative as you want, but when you finish your first draft and discover it’s flat, boring, and takes too long to get anywhere, what do you do? You go to the formula to see what you missed. Because it will be there.
Storyboarding is a plotting technique used by screenwriters, but it’s also popular with some novelists. I like it since I’m a planner, not a pantser. Storyboarding is not a rigid plotting device. The whole point of the board is that it’s flexible. The greatest advantage is seeing exactly how your novel is “built,” just as an architect refers to a blueprint.
Now, I realize that some purists eschew structuring their work according to a storyboard. That is fine for those who wish to write Litrachure. But as popular Victorian novelist Wilkie Collins once said, “I have always held the old-fashioned opinion that the primary object of a work of fiction should be to tell a story.” I feel the same way, and I don’t think storyboarding need adversely affect good writing. Continue reading “Storyboarding for Novelists”
A few weeks back, in the response to a comment on one of my posts here at IU, I remarked that I save a lot of time in the editing phase by writing “really clean first drafts.” Of course, somebody had to go and ask me how I do it.
That meant I had to deconstruct how I do what I do. First, I found a calm, quiet place, and sat there with a meditation pillow and a candle, and communed with my muse for a while. Then I had a glass of wine. Okay, maybe I had more than one glass of wine. Anyway, I came away from it all with the conclusion that it’s a whole host of things. Here, as best as I can, is my prescription for writing a clean first draft. Continue reading “How to Write a Clean First Draft”