Writerly Notions: to outline or not? idea or story

I think the parlance terms are “plotter” or “pantser”: Does one write a structured outline or structure the story as one goes along?

I’m trying to process this whole outline vs. no outline. And how that relates to revision. And where I fit. As I’ve done both, and I’ve done something in the middle, where I have a basic procedure of events following each other.

Like, if I have a rudimentary outline, but the actual first draft deviates from that and has developed a completely different tone and plot, which is the one that should be used in revision? The initial outline or impetus for the story? Or what the story became? Which is truer to the story?

And those questions open up a more important distinction: knowing what the engine or heart of the story is. This leads to what I’ve begun to realize: there’s a distinction between writing an idea and writing a story. This is where characters and character backstory and motivation becomes compelling.

More importantly, I’ve come to realize there’s a distinction between writing an idea and writing a story. This is where characters and character backstory and motivation becomes compelling.

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Writerly Notions: fanfiction and revision

Something that has always puzzled me is how people who write original fiction find time to write fanfiction.

In my case, if I’m going to write, say, a 5k word story, it will take (generously) 8 to 9 months, including writing and revision. And that’s if I’m only focused on that writing project. Why would I take 2/3rd of a year to write fanfiction? And then if I wrote a fanfic bordering on novel-length…

I’ve always been impressed with fanfic writers. But I can’t wrap my head around how I could ever do that because of the time involved. If I’m going to write/revise a story, I need to focus on that story. If I try to balance, say, three stories, the progress is much slower.

I mean, to be fair, my writing ration to my revision ration is 3x or more. That is, if it takes me 3 months to write a novel, it will take me 9 months to revise it. Though if I’m honest, it’s a bit of a puzzle to calculate.

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Writerly Notions: changing & categorizing

Writing, as a category in my head and my life (because who doesn’t do that, right?) encompasses currently at minimum eight aspects. Aside from writing, revising, worldbuilding, and submissions, of the four still unresolved aspects of being a writer, the two most complex and snarled are:

(1) what and how do I want to —– internet?

The best way I can explain this dilemma is to say me and the figuring out what and how I want to — whatever — with my writing (?) on the internet is like having a recipe that includes peppers. I have the recipe. I know what to do. But I have green and red peppers. But which color do I use?

Additionally, how do I cut them, since the recipe doesn’t specify? How do I want the recipient of my recipe to experience the peppers? As tiny minced pieces? As large pieces? As cubes? It’s like that, but applied to writing and my overall creative life.

Also, as I change, this answer will change. I will need to assess and process this, and someday this will change and I will have to assess and analyze regularly.

(2) how I want to be a writer and what responsibilities should I do and can I do?

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Writerly Notions: blogs and purpose

tl;dr: I’ve tried various times to create and categorize writing (and related) blogs. But I can never maintain interest (except in ones I delete or revise the intention of). Until I know what I’m doing with my writing and my various categories of purpose (for me, for fairy tales, for sharing stories, for sharing experience), I won’t be updating this blog on a regular basis, if at all. Thank you to everyone who read and commented on my weird little posts. 🙂

At the beginning of the year (February, to be precise), I typed up an initial post, which has been on my to-do list for…maybe a year?, about this blog. And it’s various incarnations.

The central question was why? Why do I even have this blog?

It started as a place to post detailed responses to books I’m reading or have read. But my motivation and interest in that only lasted so long.

Then it was supposed to be a writing blog, with posts of my writing, especially my daily writing exercises. The trouble with that was two-fold: making sure I didn’t publish anything online I wanted to publish in some other way (and the added analytical sieving to make sure the stories or vignettes I post/posted were not something I wanted to publish in some other way) and a lot of what I would post/posted weren’t really that important. About the most important bits I’ve posted about my writing is my Writing Demons posts.

Then it was supposed to be a place to post my experiences, struggles, and thoughts as a writer. But doing that felt too messy for a blog, so I made a writing journal. But that has since ground to a halt. Likewise, this blog’s venue as a writing blog has ground to a halt. And my question is why?

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Writerly Notions: Experts and Imagination

So I was re-reading Histoire d’Aladdin ou la Lampe merveilleuse (as one does), and I was forcibly reminded that writers need to know what they’re writing about. If say, I write about a character baking a cake, I have to know what kind of cake they’re baking and, more importantly, I need to know how that cake would be baked. And that’s where experts and connections and all that is important. Knowing who to ask and getting input from people who know what they’re talking about. Experts.

But what I think is interesting is that I couldn’t write:

She baked a werthor from a bowl of leftover isluuma blossoms, dried up after last winter’s molt and stored by her grandmother. After all adding a dollop of yurna berry juice, with just the right thickness to keep the center stiff, she popped the feathery dough into the fire-orb, watching as it expanded into a firm round werthor.

Because it’s not based on an actually recipe or method of baking.

Writing Progress: the poisoning 

I finally wrote an idea-event that I’ve been craving to write for years. (It wasn’t just a scene because the whole event covers three.)

What’s fascinating about it is that it followed an oral variant I told some family a few years ago. Not in a literal content, but the sentimentality of the main character’s (broken) friendship with the man who kidnapped his wife/fiancée was still there. So that was a surprise. (Though perhaps it shouldn’t have been.)

Threads of life

Day 208

PULLING THE PATTERNS out from inside the drawer, she peers into the shifting, glowing reflections:

She is a scientific researcher. Hours in the outdoors studying the flora and fauna. The pursuit of science and the taste of crisp, hypothesis-proven results. The scrap and scent of animals, and the calm and technical methods of space and stars. Details. Watching. Writing. Speaking out. It is strung with conservation and evolution, preservation and revolution…

She is a scholar. She roots around in old archives, digging up words and stories and historical accounts to spin into research and wonder. These she shares with colleagues, piles of details and comparisons and finely combed sources. Giving. Teaching. Hardworking. Preserving. A life of studious, exciting exploration and academic conferences. It thrives on the thrill of ancient tales and pristine books and languages no longer spoken. She walks along colonnaded halls, plows through ancient archives, and descends into the tomb of libraries… She wallows in the creak of old leather bindings and the crinkle of old curling script and the musky scent of the past… 

She is a witch. Gently caring for others, she lives in a small cottage. There are flowers, roses for certainty, growing along the cozy walls. A small garden, perhaps badly tended, flourishes with bees and butterflies and an occasional hummingbird. A yard of wild growth for rabbits and a bird feeder for sparrows and wrens and robins. The scent of peppermint tea or hot chocolate wafts through a window screen, while threads hums to life, sewn into dresses for fairies (or other small things), and paint and paper and ink enchant empty space, stories and scenes brought to life (sometimes meticulous, sometimes childish). Shells from the sea crinkle in a watercolor sketchbook, stitched with details and notes on nature. She is free, peaceful, quiet, and concocts wishes for the welfare of herself and others.


Written: 2 May 2016

Words: 311 words

Inspired: wanting to imagine (and write out) as many of the lives I’ve imagined for myself. The results are…interesting.