Probably somewhere out there in the Greater Internet some tremendously intelligent (and possibly charming) person has already written extensively about “writer types”. But I couldn’t find anything like that and so I’m going to talk about it a little, at least as far as I see myself.
DOUBLE WRITER WHAT DOES IT MEAN
I’m not talking about novelist, poet, journalist or that kind of categorisation. I’m talking specifically about writers of fiction, and the ways in which they work. I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days, and though I’m forced to swallow my humility in order to say it I consider myself a ‘craftsman’. I care about the mechanics, I’m aware of the rules of writing so when I bend or break them it’s always with reason, I don’t just write and hope it all comes together, I construct a story and I’m aware of what I’m doing at every point.
BUT OUTLINING KILLS CREATIVITY STEPHEN KING SAID SO
And if Stephen King told you to jump off a bridge would you do that too? Huh? HUH? Would ya? Punk?
I think there’s a misconception about outliners, this image of a strictly organised person who labels their pencils and who does not deviate from the precisely ordered and perfect outline they’ve created. Maybe some people work like that, but part of the reason I outline so much is that I’m exactly not like that. You see? Look at that word usage, ‘exactly not like that’, that’s terrible! What kind of descriptor would you apply to a person like me? I’ll give you one for free, ‘befuddled’. Not in the sense of ‘in a drunken stupor’ but rather ‘perplexed by many conflicting situations or statements’ and ‘confused and vague’. So I need to outline to sort out all these ideas I have, to work them into a readable state, and so for me my outlines work like a badly written, tell-don’t-show, rough stream of consciousness thing. Here’s a sample from what I’m working on right now:
THIS IS THE SAMPLE ON WHICH I SHALL BE JUDGED
So, Sorrow arrives in Blade–confrontation with Julia. Argument. Some stuff comes out–Sorrow’s actions in Moor, Julia’s conversation with Gran. Then a fight breaks out nearby, in a tavern? Escalates quickly. No no, make it personal, mercenary group. They know Sorrow–ah, yes, the message thing, that ties in nicely, good. They’re separated–Sorrow tells Julia to stick by the carriage while she fights off anyone coming near. After the fight, Julia’s gone? Or SORROW is the one who’s gone? Little subversion maybe. Julia looks around and Sorrow’s gone. That’s more active, that’s definitely better. Yes yes yes good. Or, wait, no fight at all? Sorrow surrenders? Yes, perfect, she DOESN’T fight to protect Julia, she protects her by giving in. Set-up for later, ties in with earlier. Nice. Does that work with ‘protection’? Easy road to Seven Rise from there. Safest option.
YOU SEEM TO COMPLIMENT YOURSELF RATHER A LOT IN YOUR OUTLINES
I just get excited, is all.
You can see how I work things out as I go along–sometimes scenes flow more smoothly than this, some scenes I have as little as “Talise meets up with Felony again somehow, they’re pleased to see each other, on to the next (might not even need this maybe?)”, some scenes I have as much as full dialogue and descriptions, depending on how into the scene I get. This happens especially near the end of the outline, where everything comes together and I know more precisely what has to happen.
SO YOUR BEGINNINGS ARE JUST A BLURRY MESS
Yes, pretty much. I tend to just charge through to get to the stuff I actually have outlined in the first draft, then spend a lot of time working on my beginnings in the editing passes.
ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE SKY
So I guess I’m back to that same old wishy-washy conclusion, “Do whatever works for you”. I think this is an important part of any writer’s journey, figuring out just how you’re going to turn your ideas into books. Even now, with every book I write, I’m still refining and expanding my process. So do what works, try new things, and keep on writing.