Welcome to the 3rd part of the author collaboration series of post on Plain Talk. Six authors answer the following question:
How do you go about creating your story: Outline, write in sequence or visualize your scenes?
Visualization is a must for me. I need to be able to live the scene in my head for me to be able to write it.
As far as outlines, I suck at them. I bounce when I write. I had part of the ending for After the Rain (the 3rd novel in the Rain Trilogy) completed while I was finishing Saving Rain, the first book in the trilogy. I guess bouncing plays hand in hand with being an emotional writer.
I usually use a set of note cards to start out, structuring the story with the major turning points and jotting down notes about scenes that I know will happen. Then I break down those major elements into smaller ones, typically the individual chapters, and I figure out which character’s point of view would be best for each chapter (or scene within a chapter). After that, I begin drafting — writing out each scene as I’m able to visualize it.
Most of the time, I write chronologically, but when I was working on my latest novel, The One That I Want, I wrote quite a number of scenes out of order. In fact, the very first scene I wrote was a love scene that didn’t take place until about 3/4 of the way through the book! So, my process can vary.
I have outlined in the past. Usually when I do the outline goes out the window, especially in my fiction work. With my non-fiction history work I build a timeline of dates and events. This is essential for crafting the story and keeping everything correct chronologically. With history, my timeline is probably my most effective writing tool, followed closely by the bibliography which allows me to save my research data in one place.
My brain is complicated, and I’ll say right here and now, no one’s writing method will ever be the same from one person to the next. You have to do what is right for you. In my case, though I have a high-level idea in mind of where I want to go with a story, I actually start my writing by visualizing individual scenes. These are generally not in order. In fact, most of the time they are scattered between the beginning and the end. Then, once I start reaching a level of greater detail, I create a timeline and start piecing together the story like a puzzle until a bigger picture begins to emerge.
I assemble ideas for my nonfiction and then–more or less–reassemble them into an outline before I start the first full draft. It helps me to see the project as a whole, see the flow, see how different chapters and chapter sections relate to one another.
I believe in letting the brain go where its own little creative mode when I’m writing fiction. That lets me come up with ideas (and welcome them!) when I sleep, when I’m reading or watching a movie, etc. Before I begin the second draft I may outline or track a bit to get my arcs and plot points right. A caution there: I don’t think that this process works as well for formula fiction (romances?). I write character-driven literary fiction and I think it’s perfect for that.
I do a bit of all of the above. Sometimes I outline, especially if I am adding a new storyline that is not in the original television script. I also visualize a scene intentionally or non-intentionally. Non-intentionally if I am doing something unrelated to my books and a conversation or scene flash into my mind, I then go ahead and write a story around it. It may not be next in the sequence of the story but I write it anyway, sometimes it makes it into the final manuscript or sometimes it is added to the deleted scene folder and who knows maybe I’ll use it later.
Other topics in the author collaboration series:
Next we’ll talk about what keeps these writers motivated.