Saturday, December 4, 2010

Process Porn, Organic Writing & Post-NaNoWriMo

Since I will take you into the land of writing [where fantasies come true], I've decided to set the mood with illustration of La Fontaine's Fabled by David Kawena

As promised, I will talk about my experiences with NaNoWriMo and the discoveries I made about my writing process. For starters, the end is quite fresh in my mind and I learned from it that I experience burnouts, when I conquer the middle [the place that temps me to quit, which I’ve done with two projects]. I beat the challenge. I feel satisfied with what I’ve achieved and then: who cares about the ending? I know how it ends… On to the next one, now please.

This is why this NaNoWriMo I pushed the last five to seven thousand words to descriptions of what is supposed to happen rather than showing it. It’s storytelling in its crudest sense. Like when you relay what happened in a cool movie to a friend, who is interested in it, but not enough to go watch it. Is it cheating NaNoWrimo? Perhaps, but it’s story telling nonetheless and it got me through the end, no matter how underdeveloped it is.

Lesson: After a month, I develop burnouts. Here, I think that I can develop a short story for a week or so and then return to the long project. Dave Brendon does this, but then again he is in the middle of an epic, so I guess that for him it’s a valid approach. What do you do to manage the burnouts?

It’s no secret that by the time I hit 20,000 words I had plot-wise finished my NaNo project. I just came to a certain point, where I couldn’t push the story any more. I stalled for two-three days and the epiphany hit me. I was done. The story was written. Not the actual story, but the gist of it. The main plot arc.

I went back to the drawing board, figured out what needed to be done and dived right back in. This time around I had the basic subplots lined up. The second time around I knew the story, so I could focus on the characters and I made some subliminal progress there. I may actually produce worthwhile to read characters… Can you believe it?

I still ended the NaNoWriMo and if I had not sketched out the last scenes I might have gotten a 65,000 word novel that was with better character development, basic arc and basic subplots. It’s novel-like, but it’s not a novel. It will be a novel, when I sit down and revise it.

However, this is an interesting process of layering. It’s not the strict linear approach, but not the chaotic ‘write the scenes you want’ approach either. I would have called this the weaving technique, but today I found this article by Juliette Wade called Sequence Outlining.

Here is an excerpt:

In sequence outlining, you start with events first and worry about calendar later. Often I start with a list of questions or suggestions that come directly from my sense of the demands of the story. Such as:

• Someone has to be the target of an assassination attempt.
• Sorn has to be part of some nefarious plan to influence the voting.
• Tagret has to learn that Selemei wants to expose his mother to the public eye.
• Tagret has to do something bad in order to save his girl from the candidate Innis.

Then I put my mind on how these things can be ordered relative to one another, and relative to other events I have in mind. I ask myself, "what would be the worst time for this thing to happen?" So for example, the worst time to learn that Selemei wants to bring attention to his mother would be just when Tagret realizes his mother is up to something that would put her in serious danger if she were to be exposed to scrutiny. That gives me a hint for another event, "Tagret realizes his mother is up to something," which I can then look for a place to add. Of course, I know that it must happen right before "Tagret learns that Selemei wants to expose his mother to the public eye." The two events now have a required relative sequence.

Technically, this is about outlining [I actually kind of outline in the same way, but not as focused as Wade does it, for I learn about my story as I write] and how you can arrange your scenes in a correct for the story sequence, but the principle is organic. You start with the main points and build upon them, which is what I do with my writing.

This is my process porn. I will most likely have to go through a few rounds of revisions, do a chart to get the plot write, bang my head to get the characters develop their own distinctive voices and then a heap of other things, but I trust that this is enough for me.

4 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I often find when I am rushing to get a rough draft done and the ideas are coming quickly, that it looks like a bare outline. But I kind of enjoying fleshing such things out.

Harry Markov said...

Yes, but usually a person assumes that the first draft takes care of main & sub arcs. With me, it takes a draft zero and a draft 0.1 before I go to draft 1 :D

T.S. Bazelli said...

Hehe I'm at draft .01 now myself. There's a whole lot of the first draft that needs to be rewritten.

I like hearing about how other people work. I'm still trying to figure out my process.

Harry Markov said...

Mind you, I'm not that sure that I have got this down as it is. :D