Monday, August 1, 2011

Structure and Style

     I have something to share before I get into this week's topic.  It happened!  I finished my first draft on the 31st of July!  It was a bit anticlimactic, and I was starting to wonder when I was going to be finished.  It seemed like I was paragraphs away from finishing and the finish line keep moving away from me.  I think I wrote another 11k words when I thought I had less than 500 to go.  I had the most productive week ever, with multiple days of 5 and 6 thousand words.  But it's actually done at 597 pages and 131,464 words.  That was quite a bit more than I originally planned, but with hope it will slim down, as now come the rewrites.  I am going to try to let it breath for a bit, but I'll likely be breaking out the scalpel and duct tape sooner rather than later.


      As I got close to the end I had the chance to go back and review my original plots and attempts at an outline and I have to say they are nothing like the finished product.  I had an idea for an opening scene, that was the starting point, and then my POV character changed and changed again into what I ended up using, and that changed the entire perspective of the story.  I think it's crucial to get that part right.  Once the ideas started to settle into the semblance of a plot, it became obvious that the original MCs were not going to see enough of the story to carry it through.  That was when I hit on the idea for the new MC, and once that was decided, something magical started to happen ... the story started to develop a life all on its own and I just tried to take notes.  Which leads to this weeks topic.



      I seem to be getting hit over the head lately with STRUCTURE.  I am reading a few books on writing and a few blogs I follow also hit this theme really hard this past week or two.  It's one idea on how to get started, by laying down a sort of skeleton of a story and then adding meat to the bones to form it.  It has a definite road map, with the 4 parts.  The first being the set-up, where you introduce the characters and the start of the dilemma to end the first part at the 1st Plot Point, it lays out the stakes.  Then the next section has the MC running into trouble, and helping us, the reader, have empathy for the MC and having to solve a problem, most likely related to the big problem (key plot) and ending with it resolved at Plot Point 2, then another one much like the second, but it is really focused on the Big Plot and the major climactic event at the end of part 3.  Part 4 is just tying up loose ends and resolving the Big Plot stuff.  There are lots of other parts that fill in with subplots and side stories, but that is the basic layout.  I can see this working for a lot of people, but I don't think it works all that great for me, at least in the intended fashion.  I use it at the end of my process, to make sure I didn't go too far off course, a way to validate the structure after the fact.

      I'm what they call a pantser.  I just start working ideas like working a lump of clay until something forms and I go "AHA!", then I just start writing.  About halfway or 2/3s in I start working on an outline to get to a satisfactory ending.  I revise the first bits here if I need to, then guide the characters along the outline, but my outline is more like a Lego structure, not one made out of steel.  I like to be able to take it apart and reform it from time-to-time as my ideas coalesce into something with substance.  It's really very organic, but then I probably have a lot of pruning to do on the rewrite.

      The thing I don't really like about the STRUCTURE at the beginning in the story development phase is that it requires you to be brilliant all at once.  Your plot really needs to be strong or it won't matter how much meat you put on that weakling.  I find that I have what I hope is brilliance in small doses.   A scene or an idea sparks and grows and I can mold it and shape it and add other ideas to it and then that leads to more ideas.  Like I said, it's organic like that.  I'm interested in how you develop your stories, I love to hear all about it!



BTW I will be looking for some alpha readers soon.  If you like Sci Fi and Paranormal Romance it might be up your alley, please let me know if you would be interested.

Clear Ether!

4 comments:

  1. Yay! I'm so happy for you!
    Definitely stay away for at least a month. You'll be glad you did (you get a much more fresher perspective).
    Take a break and then start on something else!!

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  2. A lot of pantsers have that kind of view of outlining and plotting, but it isn't really like that. Anymore than your first draft will be a fixed thing that won't change between now and the final draft. I don't think anyone has that clear idea of how a story will go before they've written it.

    Those formulaic, fill in the blanks type of structures (that you often find in screenplay books) tend to be for people who'd like to write something, but don't have a story.

    Which doesn't sound like a problem for you. Congrats on reaching the end of your first draft.

    mood

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  3. Congratulations!
    The only time I manage to complete an entire manuscript was during Nano :(
    I'm not giving up, though. I'm still scribbling away on a current WIP so hopefully I put up a "Done" post on my writing blog :)
    Ren

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  4. Stacy, I'm trying to stay away from it, but I have time right now, which I likely won't when I get back. Thanks!

    Thanks Mood, I suppose it help make it easier to pump stories out, and some of my favorite authors outline heavily first. maybe that is something I can evolve.

    Ren, I did Nano last year and hit the 50k mark but I am nowhere near finishing that one yet. I may go back to that one next, or I may work on the sequel. I wish you good finishing vibes for your WIP!

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