August 26th, 2005
Writing on the Brain

A friend and I were discussing how we write last night. We both realized we have to plot out the stories more often now than we did in the past. We’re both pansters. I’m actually more of a half and half now. I used to be a full-blown panster, but since I’ve started adding depth (ie suspense) to some of my stories I have to write down at least a loose outline or I’ll lose the book.

Anyway, as we discussed writing and goals, (See a theme here?;) I realized that I can’t seem to work on any story where I don’t have the beginning and the end clearly charted out in my mind. I not only have to ‘see’ the scene, but I also have to ‘hear’ the characters’ last words. Strange, I know. For some reason, if I have that info I can follow the ‘trail’ through the story to the final destination. If not, well, I’ve located many cracks in the paint on my office wall. (wg)

I’m currently sitting here with various stories loosely charted, searching for endings, so that I can begin. Grr… Normally my characters are more cooperative than this.

Do you all need specific info before you can start a story? Or do you jump right in and worry about the story later?

23 comments to “Writing on the Brain”

  1. I used to just write down scenes as they came to be, usually the beginning. I have a great many unfinished projects in the 10-40 page range as a result. 🙁

    This past year I’ve really been forcing myself to set up the entire story with character sheets and the plot laid out in a ten-block framework (combined with the hero’s journey) first before writing too far. It has helped me tremendously!

  2. Wow Joely, that’s quite a change in tactics. Good for you! I do the character sheets sometimes, but not consistently. I also can’t block out the hero’s journey or plot until I know how the book ends. Sigh.

  3. I tend to write the first couple of chapters to get to know the characters and story and then I outline it. Then, I end up completely not following the outline, but for some reason, it works for me. I just have to end up rewriting half the thing once I’ve finished. Surely there’s an easier way, but I haven’t figured it out yet. 🙁

  4. Danica, I can normally write the first chapter, but from there I have to know the end to get to the rest of the chapters.

  5. I’ve developed from a seat of the pants writer in my accidental first attempt at novel writing (I didn’t plan to write a book, it just happened) to a detailed outliner. I’ve realised that since I have to do a lot of research anyway (I write Historical Fiction), I work better with outlines and character backstories.

    But at some point during that process I need to have the first chapter down in order to continue. Funny, isn’t it? Ends are not so important

    BTW I just posted about that on my blog.

  6. Where have the line breaks in my post gone? Do we need to html code them?

  7. I’m one of those that never knows what will happen until it happens. I start with a basic idea, open up Word, and begin. I can’t say it’s the best method b/c I don’t have anything to compare it to, but to each her own, I guess 🙂

  8. Gabriele, To answer your question, yes you have to use HTML tags to have the breaks in the paragraphs. 🙂

    I would imagine that writing historical fiction you would have to have the characters charted and a plot outlined. It is funny how we all need certain things to write.

  9. Jaid, That’s pretty much what I’m talking about, but for me that basic idea includes the beginning and the ending of the book. Keep in mind, most of the time I only need a few lines. I don’t have to have the entire first and last chapter charted before I begin to write. I simply need the opening and ending paragraphs.

  10. I’m another pantser. I don’t plot much. i have general ideas in mind, but I just hop in head first and figure out as I go along. However, I’m seeing some plotting and a basic outline can be helpful. I just never get around to actually writing them.

  11. Gina, In the past, I didn’t plot much either. The last paranormal I worked on demanded plotting. There were way too many happening in the story to keep track of in my head. :-O

  12. Pansters R Us! But I also use theme as my guide. I start off with a basic idea, I start writing and once I’ve got enough of a chunk written I can spot the theme. I’ve finished books without knowing the theme until I’d finished the first draft but then I had to do wayyyy too much revision. By figuring it out earlier on in the process I still end up with lots of cleanup in the early pieces that got written but the whole thing goes a lot easier, I don’t end up backtracking and throwing out whole sections, and revisions go a lot faster because it’s a cleaner, tighter piece. YMMV!

  13. Charlene, That’s interesting. I’m not sure I could pick a theme out of my books. (Not even the published ones.) I’m going to have to think about that.

  14. I need the beginning. That’s usually the thing that first occurs to me, that prompts me to start writing. Immediately.

    I usually have a GENERAL idea of the ending, i.e., who lives, dies, or has sex, lol!–and at least one crisis scene. But often those both go out the window.

    Everything else is winged, I’m afraid. :-/

  15. I jump right into the first three chapters, which for me frees me to write something I love, then I get to plotting when I write the synopsis to get ready to submit.

  16. I’m new at this and working on my second book. But I find that I have to plot all the way out. I happen to think it takes a really special gift or talent to just go at it with blank paper! I’m impressed. 🙂 Even when I plot it out, things always change as I go along, and that’s okay. I just feel comfortable with an initial path to follow.

  17. I have found that I do better (that is, write with more confidence and command) when I know EXACTLY what happens at the end – precisely what I am aiming for. Plotting and character developments alter throughout, but I always have the bullseye in sight.

    I saw a program about J.K. Rowling where she revealed she has the final chapter of the Harry Potter series ALREADY WRITTEN! If that isn’t a big endorsement for knowing your ending, I don’t know what is.

    Keep up the good work.

  18. Raine, That’s great and way more than I get. I usually get the opening scene and the very end paragraph or two. No turning points, plot points, action sequences, etc.

  19. Suzanne, About all I can get without knowing the ending is the first chapter. After that, nada.

  20. Cherlyn, I’ve always envied plotters. (wg)

  21. Chaz, That’s exactly what I’m talking about. I can blaze any trail as long as I know my destination. Without it, I’m taking a step into the wilderness. *g*

  22. I used to just have a basic idea of the main story – like ‘what if this happened to someone?’ Then go from there, being a total panster. But I’ve found that when I do that I meander all over the place. I end up with scenes that go nowhere and I write myself into a corner.

    Now I plot out as much of the book that will come to me, and keep adding scenes in a plot map I have on the computer. I use microsoft visual to plot the book, and keep going back to it. That way I don’t get lost. It’s like using index cards, but my dog doesn’t eat them on me, as she’s apt to do *grin*

  23. Trace, For me, it always starts with a voice in my head talking. I then spend the next several days/weeks trying to figure out who’s talking and what’s happening.