Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to Drive a Writer Crazy. A Better Outliner or A Better Guesser? And Creativity.

How To Drive A Writer Crazy

So I pointed out to DH today that he hadn't read my latest, and seeing as how he's TAKEN OVER MY KINDLE, I asked him if he wanted me to send my latest to MY Kindle for him to read.

"No, that's okay, I'm reading this. It's nice and easy, relaxed." (Referring to one of the Christmas Harlequins, which he loves.)

"What do you mean? My stuff isn't easy?"

"Well, it's kind of intense."

"Intense? What do you mean by intense? What do you mean my stuff isn't easy to read?"

"I don't know. When I read, I like to kick back and be entertained."

"My stuff doesn't entertain you?"

"Yes," he laughed, "it does."

At which point he insisted on eating a caramel and not speaking on the subject anymore. He sure knows how to drive a writer crazy. I'm pretty sure he enjoys it.

A Better Outliner or A Better Guesser?

Anyway, after Amy's great post on the "Twiwrite Zone," (hah!) I thought about my recent use of outlines. Sorta.

You know how, after you've written enough stories, you can pretty much see what's going to happen in a whole novel after reading the first chapter or so? It's not that it's predictable, it's just that you know how things work. For example, mystery writers can almost always guess whodunnit, because they know how a mystery ticks. Yes, things can be twisted and there can be lovely surprises, but there are always hooks and hints that give a clue as to what will follow and how it will end.

If you open a can of worms, you've gotta eat them by the end.

Anyhow, I've outlined, lately. Sparsely. My outlines (little notes, really) for a 52,000 word novella/novel/whatever generally fit on a 3x6 inch piece of paper. Recently I outlined a whole novella for the first time ever, and then accidentally deleted it. *sigh*

I decided it was not meant to be.

One thing I've noticed, is that my characters never stray from my notes anymore. I don't think it's that I'm a better outliner. I think it's just that I try to hook and plant so much in the beginning, that the rest of the novel is kinda predetermined once I've written the first chapter or so.

And also like the mystery writers, I can guess what my characters are going to do. So I'm guessing accurately, not outlining.


And Creativity

Twyla Tharp, famous dance choreographer, has a great book on creativity. In the video below she talks about art, creativity, failure, and money. She's very practical, experienced, and highly creative. Her book is worth checking out, and her words below are wise:

Do you outline? Before you start, somewhere after you start, or during the editing process? Are they long outlines, little notes? Detailed?

And what do you think DH means by intense? Is that bad or good?

26 bonus scribbles:

Edie 11/13/2008 10:42:00 PM  

My outlining sounds a little more than yours. Usually my characters drive my story. Just now I wrote a scene with two secondary characters, and something happened between them that changed their whole dynamic. I love it when that happens. It's almost always a good thing. When I can guess what's going to happen, it's boring. I want to be surprised as a writer and a reader.

As for DH, I read a Debbie Macomber Christmas book yesterday. It's something I normally never read, but I wanted to see why she was a bestselling writer. And I was ready for a holiday book. :)

She's a "comfort read." There's a time for comfort reads as well as for intense reads.

Eric Mayer,  11/14/2008 12:06:00 AM  

Mary and I outline our books scene by scene before writing. We end up with about fifteen pages of outline. But since we are both writing at the same time, often different scenes, we have to do that to keep things straight. If I were writing the books by myself I would outline anyway. Mary wouldn't.

And, I have to admit, I rarely can figure out mysteries. One I did figure out when I spotted a technical thing - nothing to do with the story.

spyscribbler 11/14/2008 08:16:00 AM  

Edie, I love when that happens, too! I was just thinking, it's kind of like I know what's going to happen, but not the particulars. When I get to the end and everything is all laid out, it's excruciatingly boring for me to write.

Hey, which one? DH loves Christmas books. I try to pick them up for him.

spyscribbler 11/14/2008 08:21:00 AM  

Wow, Eric, that's cool. So how do you decide who gets to write which scenes? Don't you guys ever fight over who gets to write what? LOL, I'm sorry, you probably get sick of questions like that. I find the two person writing team thing fascinating.

Robin 11/14/2008 10:31:00 AM  

I think DH was trying to say, "I love you madly! Much better than this caramel! Chew chew chew chew...glug. You're writing is so brilliant that it makes me think. These Harlequin Christmas books are mindlessly relaxing. Come to me, my gorgeous and brilliant wife! Smooch!"

This wip is the first time I've ever outlined. It's nice, because I know what's going to happen, but my characters aren't behaving. I have to be tougher, and yell, "Stick to the outline!" a lot.

LaDonna 11/14/2008 11:14:00 AM  

Hey Spy, I don't outline and my characters run the show. As to DH, he sounds so funny! He obviously thinks you're brilliant, and is encouraging in his way to go get 'em!

Melanie Avila 11/14/2008 11:19:00 AM  

Spy, I think he probably pays more attention when he reads something you wrote and THAT'S what makes it more intense. At least for him. Since I still haven't read anything you've written *sniff* I can't speak from that end.

So far I outline loosely at the beginning, then tighten it up as the story progresses. I still leave room for those little surprises. Like yesterday, I knew the dad was going to remember part of a conversation he had with his best friend (the one he killed) that would suddenly shine light on why things happened, but I didn't know WHAT that thing would be until it flew out of my fingers. Even I gasped. :)

spyscribbler 11/14/2008 12:10:00 PM  

Robin, awww, let them have their fun! It's NaNo, remember? Freedom! :-)

LOLOL... I can honestly say he's never called me gorgeous and brilliant. I gotta talk to him about that. :-)

spyscribbler 11/14/2008 12:11:00 PM  

LOL, LaDonna, I'm not convinced that's what he was thinking, but I'll take your interpretation! :-)

spyscribbler 11/14/2008 12:16:00 PM  

Melanie, I promise I will write something soon that won't make you blush. :-)

Ooh, I love when stuff like that happens! That's awesome! Ya' know, I can't really say exactly how and when I outline, because every time is so different.

Amy Nathan 11/14/2008 12:52:00 PM  

I'm sorry, the banter with your DH made me chuckle. He obviously adores you or he wouldn't tease you so!

Intense means there is more than just the words that are on the page.

It's a compliment. I'm sure of it.

As for outlining, I only do it sort of and sometimes. For example, I make a list in "track changes" of a new dot doc when I'm about to start a new chapter, as I've ended one. I outline scenes in a word or two, like "coffee with dialogue" or "scene in bakery, decor, emotion" etc. Then when I go back I know what's next.

Whatever you do, it sure seems to be working for you!

Zoe Winters 11/14/2008 03:42:00 PM  

i outline like 5 or 6 times. Once before I start, then i re-outline every time my story deviates from the outline.

Yes, I am insane. :P

lainey bancroft 11/14/2008 05:07:00 PM  

What's an outline???? =)

And lol, yes, DH meant that as a compliment. I agree with Melanie, he probably pays more attention when reading your works, but I also suspect you take the characters a little deeper, so instead of just getting to coast on the warm fuzzies of lurv or Christmas you lead him to wonder who these people are and what brought them to this place.

Intense! And that's a good thing.

Anissa 11/14/2008 10:49:00 PM  

I don't really outline, just have an idea of where I'm going in my head. I do jot down one-liners of scenes I anticipate. They're random until I hit about the 25% point. Then I pull out my board and post-its and try to make sense of the mess. :)

And I agree, intense is a good thing.

Rick 11/15/2008 01:35:00 AM  

I've never outlined anything in my life, Spy. So can I join your club?

Mostly I try to let images form and do a kind of Thematic Apperception where I see the images, chain them together in various ways, create a story from the most satisfying linkages, and start writing from there.

Plus I roam around at night watching the carlights and wondering about the shadows.

Which is why I get bulk discounts on Tylenol.

Kate S 11/15/2008 09:13:00 AM  

Yeah, I agree with Lainey 100% - on the outlines and what the DH meant. :)

This was a great post - funny in the beginning, thought-provoking in the end. The video spoke to me directly. The past few days I've been working on the notion of giving up trying to write and paint for profit, to take a year off and only do both for pleasure. I think I put too much pressure on myself when I start seeing those things as a "job" and then I procrastinate, find excuses, lay down, etc. and either don't finish the work or do sloppy work.

Time to focus on the dance and not the money. :) (I'll have to let my day job take care of the money part for while. waaahhhhh)

Kate S 11/15/2008 09:15:00 AM  

PS: I also love Christmas books - and probably in the same vein that your husband mentioned.

Yesterday, I was at the bookstore trying to decide between a Kim Harrison and sweet little Christmas book, and I went the Christmas route - after all, I'd already picked up a Lilith StCrow (she's pretty intense) ;), so I wanted something that would be relaxing also.

spyscribbler 11/15/2008 01:53:00 PM  

Amy, LOL, he's very supportive, but I have to be honest and say that he was dead serious. LOL! I love him dearly, but he wasn't teasing me. He was just enjoying driving me crazy.

I'm like you in the brevity of my notes, except mine or more emotionally related.

spyscribbler 11/15/2008 01:54:00 PM  

Awww, Zoe, not insane! The word is thorough. That's better, right? :-)

spyscribbler 11/15/2008 01:55:00 PM  

Lainey, LOL, okay, okay, okay. I'll believe you guys' interpretation. :-) It's true, I like to torture my characters. Lately, I seem to be starting my novels off with the worst day of their life. I don't mean to, but then I look back...

spyscribbler 11/15/2008 01:57:00 PM  

Anissa, that's what I do! Almost identical, except for the post it board. Although I did just buy one in the hopes I could do that. I manage it various ways on the computer, though, mostly with Super Notecard.

And the 25% mark... TOTALLY!

spyscribbler 11/15/2008 02:07:00 PM  

Rick, ROFLMAO! If someone told me that was how to write a novel, I'd go running in the opposite direction.

Scary, dude. :-)

Apperception? That is one cool word. I had to look it up.

spyscribbler 11/15/2008 02:10:00 PM  

Kate, that part SO resonated with me right now, too. It's getting to the point where I'm leaning on writing a little too much for my income, but I'm dealing with it okay.

Still, it mostly freezes me when I decide what to write next. I think you have to compartmentalize somehow. I don't know how, but somehow. Put on blinders or something, lol!

spyscribbler 11/15/2008 02:10:00 PM  

PS: Kate, it's so good to see you! You've been so quiet this last year or so. I like it when you're around. :-)

Rick 11/15/2008 02:17:00 PM  

Hello Spy! Look up the Thematic Apperception Test, where a subject is show an painting or a photo or an image and, from that image, creates a story. Years ago in a museum I went down the hallways and began a story to link them all together. I'm not sure why I did it. But it worked for me. One image linked to the next and the next. It was... interesting.

But, maybe scary, too!

spyscribbler 11/15/2008 03:46:00 PM  

Rick, I did, actually! Once I looked up Apperception, I saw Wikipedia's article, which mentioned TAT, and then all these other great ideas and links. I marked a couple in my bookmarks because it's definitely something that I want to learn more about!

But methinks you should write one of your detailed posts on Apperception. :-)