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Writing Styles: Freeflowing or Tighten Down all the Screws?

Crumbly Writer

I'm having a resident content editor review my story after I've just completed the first draft—which wasn't a wise move, since I should have waited until the revision process was finished, but that's another discussion. However, what's interesting is how our discussions illustrate another long-running debate.

Many authors, Switch being a ready example, will sit on a chapter, and go over it time and again until they're sure it's a 'clean as possible' before starting on the next chapter.

I, on the other hand, like to get my ideas out on the paper, and see where the story leads me, and then double back and revise the story based on where the story ultimately leads.

This is coming up now, because when the editor asks me about what the character means when he says something, I'm never quite sure (at this point). That's because, while I understand the character pretty well, as the story unfolds, I find the character's positions on a number of fronts change, which for me is the run part of writing.

I often speak of my plot as, setting the goal post and the characters, and simply letting them loose, merely trying to capture what they say before they move on to the next issue. However, other author simply can't understand that, assuming every other decides the actions, and that the characters have no role in how the story unfolds.

However, now I'm beginning to see that it's my 'loosey-goosey' approach to plot development that provides that perspective. If you 'lock down' each chapter before proceeding, there is NEVER any questions about where the story is going, and no room for the characters to object.

Granted, this approach isn't for everyone. You've got to love living in a confusing morass of errors, confusing plot elements and half-baked ideas—which many of you can agree, exemplifies many of my posts on the Forum. Rather than having one set position on any topic, I'll instead spout of something off the top of my head, and then, as people jump on, my understanding will change, and I'll be accused of contradicting myself.

But again, with this approach, I don't have a firm grasp on my final point, but throw the arguments up simply to see how they hold up.

While many of my knowledge does have roots in accepted literary beliefs, my insisting on (and vigorous defending of) positions I don't completely buy myself, makes other authors CRAZY!

Still, I'm curious what others think about this prospect. Does anyone else take this same approach, letting the story evolve on its own, and letting you characters write their own story? Or do most of you like to ensure there are no outstanding errors or typos right away, never allowing the story to change as you proceed. Or, do you take the alternative not mentioned, think I'm insane and suffering from delusions because I 'hear' my characters arguing with me? 'D

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Or, do you take the alternative not mentioned, think I'm insane and suffering from delusions

What insane delusions have led you to think that may be an alternative? :-)

No sorry for that one ... you made it far too easy.

But seriously, folks. The worst mistake of all that a writer can make is allowing revisions to become the alternative to starting a new chapter. :(

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Many authors, Switch being a ready example, will sit on a chapter, and go over it time and again until they're sure it's a 'clean as possible' before starting on the next chapter.

I, on the other hand, like to get my ideas out on the paper, and see where the story leads me, and then double back and revise the story based on where the story ultimately leads.


You misunderstand what I do.

Most people say you write from the creative side of your brain and edit from the analytical side. So they say not to edit while writing. Not me. If I see a typo or a word I want to change or the way the sentence is written WHILE I'M WRITING THE FIRST DRAFT, I change it. The analytical side of my brain jumps in and pushes the creative side aside to make the change.

Since I read the chapter I've not finished from the beginning to get to the place I left off, I often never get there because I'm changing a lot. But when I move on to the next chapter, the one I just finished is far from being the way I want it to be at the end. I go through many, many edits after the first draft is written. However, my first draft is really more than a first draft since I edit while writing. Now if my story leads me to something that requires something to have occurred previously, I will go back to that chapter and change it.

But I am a panster to a degree (write by the seat of your pants) since I let the story unfold as I write it. I once tried outlining and found the writing boring. I want to be as surprised as the reader. But as I've said in the past, I don't start with a blank page. I know my main characters and their relationships. I know the plot's conflict. I know what sets the conflict/story in motion (inciting incident). I know how the conflict will be resolved (plot's climax). And sometimes I know the theme which helps determine how my characters will react.

So I don't have an outline when I begin, but a skeleton. That keeps me on track writing toward the ending with the main plot in mind. I'll add minor characters and sub-plots and mini-conflicts along the way.

Of course, the less planning up front the more rewriting later.

Uther_Pendragon

@Crumbly Writer

I would finish the story and then go back over it. All too often, you need something in an early chapter.

"Oh, by the way, Smith happened to be fluent in Swedish," looks terribly contrived when you toss it into chapter 17 where you need it. If you've talked about his Swedish aunt in chapter 2 and had him talk with her over the phone in chapter 6, it looks much less contrived.

Which is a damned good reason to not send chapter 2 and chapter 6 to the proofreader until you've finished chapter 17. It's also a reason to not polish chapters 2 and 6 until you have inserted the information that you might need there.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
richardshagrin

@Switch Blayde

write by the seat of your pants

Sounds very uncomfortable. Its possible you stick the pen in a place it shouldn't go in. Gives me an idea for another of Santa's reindeer, Panster. Or maybe Punster.

Remus2
Updated:

In general terms, I don't have a story, plot, or other device in my concious mind at the beginning. To date it's always been a meditative exercise to me. Writing a coherent procedure or technical document requires almost slavish devotion to the analytical approach. That doesn't lend itself well to creativity.

There is zero thought to technical elements when I meditate. It's unplugging my concious mind, and unleashing my fingers and subconscious. If I intend to keep the story, it ends up heavily edited for logic and technical elements after the fact.

From my perspective, every writer who claims to be a writer has their own approach. As such, I don't think there is a right or wrong approach to it.

Darian Wolfe

@Remus2

When I was actively writing. I could go one of three ways.

The first was how the Freya Cycle was created. I used the Shantaram Story Architecture that I had adapted to short stories. In it, you had themes, symbolism, I.E. art critic shit.

The second was a set of bullet points that covered the major points I wanted to hit w/ any cool dialogue I thought up. I would revise as I wrote. The characters would flat refuse to cooperate if they didn't like what I wanted them to do. This was The Better Than the Jackpot stories. Amy just would not co-operate and Tiff was insistent that as much as she wanted to she was not going to have intercourse with Dan for any reason.

The third way was to just sit down and write. Check for spelling and grammar then post. This was the BIQ's. I did have to do the math on the kids birthday to get the story to work but other than that it was straight pantsing.

Point is any style will work as long as you work it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

You misunderstand what I do.

Sorry. I remember you stating that earlier and forgot the precise details (I think it was someone else who stated they finish each chapter before continuing at the same time you talked about your process, so I likely conflated the detailed).

Of course, the less planning up front the more rewriting later.

Yeah, that's assumed. But then, you're also better able to incorporate the later material for better prepping your readers (i.e. beyond simple foreshadowing) beforehand.

Crumbly Writer

@Uther_Pendragon

Which is a damned good reason to not send chapter 2 and chapter 6 to the proofreader until you've finished chapter 17. It's also a reason to not polish chapters 2 and 6 until you have inserted the information that you might need there.

That's also the best reason for getting a content editor involved early in the process. Before, I had him editing at the same time as my other editors, and often it would produce significant changes to the already-edited chapters (since proofing takes considerably less time than content editing, which often takes multiple passes).

Crumbly Writer

@Remus2

In general terms, I don't have a story, plot, or other device in my concious mind at the beginning. To date it's always been a meditative exercise to me. Writing a coherent procedure or technical document requires almost slavish devotion to the analytical approach. That doesn't lend itself well to creativity.

Like others here, I don't write from an outline. Instead I work from 'plot points', where I know certain things need to occur at a particular stage (though what chapter they land in isn't predetermined.

However, I don't write any of it down. Instead, I'll sit on a story, often for months at a time, considering approaches to the story until I firm up the events in the story (again, way-points rather than details). But the only things I'll actually write down is the story description (as referring to it helps me keep the primary conflict of the story as my primary concern) and the cast list (since those details are often essential to maintain throughout the story).

From my perspective, every writer who claims to be a writer has their own approach. As such, I don't think there is a right or wrong approach to it.

You're right about that, but it is handy comparing notes about the writing process, in case we can pick up something we can use ourselves, or in the worst case, we decide our approach isn't working as well as we'd hoped.

Crumbly Writer

@Darian Wolfe

The first was how the Freya Cycle was created. I used the Shantaram Story Architecture that I had adapted to short stories. In it, you had themes, symbolism, I.E. art critic shit.

I'll have to check that out, as I take a similar approach, often writing out (yes, these I do write out, as I again refer back to these documents to keep the story on track as it evolves) the theme, the overall conflicts, and each character's individual internal conflicts (once again, this helps keep the slow, discussions about what happened and what the next stage is compelling, as the characters often argue different positions before finally agreeing on a single approach). Thus it's not so much 'art critic shit', as it helps you in constructing the story in the first place (the art critic shit comes later, when they try to 'deconstruct' the story to fit into their particular models, to argue the story dovetails with other, completely unrelated stories).

While authors have historically relied upon those elements, they frequently argue voraciously over whether the literary analysis of their work holds water, or is a leaky sieve, unable to hold up on its own.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


The first was how the Freya Cycle was created. I used the Shantaram Story Architecture that I had adapted to short stories.


Ah, the Shantaram Story Architecture isn't a specific technique for writing stories, but is merely a description by the author of how he organized this one story. It's insightful, but I'd thought it was an organized technique, with items to review, as I was hoping it might contain a few items I may have missed attempting the same things on my own.

If nothing else, it would be handy having a label to apply to this approach, simply so others could look it up when we mention it.

Replies:   Darian Wolfe
Darian Wolfe

@Crumbly Writer

I thought it was a technique so I treated it as one. It actually worked out pretty good for me. Lol

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Darian Wolfe


I thought it was a technique so I treated it as one. It actually worked out pretty good for me.


It works as one, but generally, to be considered a 'literary' technique, someone has to sit down, plot out the components, interview various authors to get their input on the requirements, gets published in a recognized literary magazine (cough, cough, 'rag') and is recognized as a literary technique by published authors (i.e. pops up immediately with a Google Search, though "Mary Sue" fits that category, based only on a single fanfic piece from 1977).

But as I said, I use a similar approach, and truth be told, we discussed the issue, and as with many literary techniques, I believe you went looking for references to follow and only found that single source, as I don't know of any specific 'named' literary technique for it. Given that, it's a decent place to turn.

Replies:   Darian Wolfe
Darian Wolfe

@Crumbly Writer

You're correct. I found basically a description of the process by the author and went from there. He is one of those reformed criminal types who rather than trying to be somebody's guru per say gave it as a gift. When he noticed he was getting overly famous basically said not happening and pulled the plug. Any literary rag should be proud of it. ;)

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