When Writing Is Really Fun

Most people who know me know that I’m a big proponent of the outline or the story break.  I think it helps you meet deadlines and not fall into seductive dead ends that look good at first then you write a hundred pages and realize you’ve been dumped in a swamp.  The argument against the outline is that it’s rigid, a straight jacket, confining.  But it’s not.  If you know the big scenes and the ultimate end of the book there is still plenty of room to move and breath and adjust.

Yesterday afternoon I finished a big scene about economics and using money as a weapon.  Then last night I realized that I could go back to a chapter much earlier in the book and add in a small exchange between my hero and his father that will resonate incredibly in the scene between my heroine and her father.  I won’t draw any attention to it — it will be a bit like an Easter Egg embedded in a video, but I’ll know it’s there and that will delight me.  And some readers will spot it and that will be fun too.

It’s always a balance between being too subtle and “hiding the football”, and being too “on the nose”.  That’s when beta readers really come in handy, and I’ll be looking for one once this book is completed.  I want fresh eyes to see if the entire story holds together.

4 Responses to When Writing Is Really Fun

  • Jennifer Hooks says:

    This echoes what you taught on at the Hillerman conference, and you’ve given me food for thought in my own struggle with the question of an outline and whether it restricts the story. So I’ve followed your advice and gone with the idea of a storyboard outline, and that’s been really helpful (and freeing at the same time). I’d love to be a beta reader for you if you need a new one!

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I really find it to be the best tool for meeting deadlines and staying on task. I can go in each morning and know exactly what I have to write that day. No wandering around trying to figure out what should happen next. Glad the talk helped you find you technique.

  • I’m pretty much a Gardener — which is why I have difficulty in pitching stories for the WILD CARDS books, since it requires I abandon the garden and get out my T-square… For myself, I find that having things outlined feels too constricting; I’d rather write those few thousands words that spiral away into a dead end — mostly because in my experience, those new trails usually lead to somewhere better than what was in my original plan. I love allowing serendipity and synchronicity to bend and twist both characters and plot.

    But I understand the advantages of being an Architect. Both ends of the continuum have their good points as well as their faults. The truth is there’s no right way to write. As long as you get to those two lovely words, THE END, and feel good about what you’ve written, you’ve done it the right way, no matter what your approach.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      And you write lovely, lyrical books, Stephen. 🙂 If it’s only a few thousand then I guess it’s not such a sink hole, but I’ve known writers who will write 200 pages and then realize it’s not working. I would rather figure out it’s not going to work using cards and a board then write all that and have to throw it away. I will let events twist a character, but once I start messing with the structure then usually everything falls apart for me.

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