Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ways of writing

by Suw on January 10, 2008

Vince blogs that he is changing the way that he writes, moving from a strictly linear method to a more flexible scene-based method:

I’ve […] tried a different approach toward writing this book. In the past I have been religiously linear. The first draft has been written as it reads, from beginning to end. This time, instead of the process stalling when I hit a sticking point, I’ve jumped ahead and written a later scene. Not exactly rocket science, but it shows that even after thirteen years of this writing business, there are still some really obvious techniques I haven’t tried yet.

I wonder if the other writers work the same way and whether they use scenes as the primary building blocks for their stories? I’ve probably always done it, but I’ve certainly become more accomplished at distilling an idea into scenes as I’ve done more screenwriting and filmmaking. I refuse to go as far as using index cards, but I’ve certainly found it helpful for plotting and weeding out unnecessary passages before I have to actually write them.

Neil on the other hand, prefers a more exploratory approach:

I’m more or less happily writing Chapter Six of The Graveyard Book. I say more or less as I’m at that place where I hope that the book knows what it’s doing because right now I don’t have a clue — I’m writing one scene after another like a man walking through a valley in thick fog, just able to see the path a little way ahead, but with no idea where it’s actually going to lead him.

Me, I’m sticking to the method that’s worked so well for me up to now – resulting as it has in 5 beginnings, half a middle and no endings – of doing precisely no planning and letting my characters paint themselves into a corner whilst I look on, mystified as to how I am going to get them out again.

I’m sure you’ll agree that’s a winning strategy.

It’s so funny. These days I am surrounded by people writing books – including people who had formerly said that they couldn’t write for toffee. (Which just goes to show what poor judges of our own abilities we are.) Some previous non-writers are even on their second book.

The strange thing is that I’m writing more now than I ever have before. Some of it on the various blogs that I keep, a lot of it for clients, and quite a lot more privately, on blogs installed locally on this laptop, and a daft amount in Twitter. I just wrote something in the area of 30,000 words for a client, which I’m very proud of but which will never see the light of day. I’ve also got tens of thousands of words on various private local blogs that will also never become public, because that’s not what they were written for.

Last year, one of my goals was to write a book. I did start a novel, but to be honest, the main character turned out to be a complete nutjob. Whilst I’m not averse to writing a character that’s mad as a bag of ferrets, I wasn’t really expecting her to turn out that way, and it kinda threw me.

But I have to remember that I am writing a book right now. It just doesn’t feel like it, because I’m not sitting down and thinking “Time to write a book!”, I’m just sorta getting on with it. It’s not a novel, which is a shame. I won’t feel like I’ve really achieved anything as a writer until I have a novel published. It is going to be amusing, I hope, and it will also be interesting, I hope, but you’ll have to wait til probably early summer before you find out anything more about it.

After all, It could still go the way of all my other attempts, but that depends on what the lead character does. She could still turn out to be mad as a bag of ferrets.

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