Yesterday I mentioned gaps, the space where I work within a building manuscript – I thought I would rabbit on some more about them and about writing, too (wot a surprise) – There are different ways to write a story, some start from the beginning and work towards a goal, some just start from the beginning and trust it will go somewhere worthwhile – Others have a game-plan and know not only where they are headed but the route along the way.
Me? I have a string of main points. I know what ending I want – for example, I already have the climax for book 4 (the next one) worked out and the actual last words of that book already written. Book 5 is also already mapped. And yes, so is the one I am currently writing, book 3, The Bastard Line. Of the three threads in book 3, two have their endings set. The third one, although mapped out, is a bit more flexible where it breaks between book 3 and book 4, so I’ll know better where that ending is when I get closer to it. I do know it’s along a certain storyline.
Once I generate a string of events and put them into the order that tells the tale, I have my map. One or two of these events will go into my manuscript-under-construction file, the rest will be in one or more of my note files, awaiting their turn. I don’t like putting them all in at once, unless they are quite widely spaced, otherwise they get in the way of the other stuff that has to go in and you end up doing a lot of shuffling, which can trip you up in more ways than one and waste a lot of time.
So… two events in place and you have a gap between them. If you wrote the beginning and wrote the end, and it’s going to be a big fat book, then the gap would qualify as a GINORMOUS one. But it is still a gap which has to be filled in and structured and closed.
You’ll be pleased to know I do not have a ginormous gap to fill. At this stage in this project, I have an assortment of gaps, most of them small (most of them actually tiny), and some of them big.
Yesterday, I closed up the gap closest to the beginning of the book. It was one gap in one thread and between that and other areas, I increased the overall page count by six. Not huge, but it is growth and another step in the right direction. The next gap in line is eleven pages further along and I will work on that today. I like to watch the first marker point move along, it’s one way I count my progress.
One of the things I learned early on is not to save the toughest things until last. In an early draft on my first book, that’s exactly what I did. I jumped over everything that was too tough and moved on, making what seemed to be great progress. But it backfired. You can’t help but make estimates based on your progress, so having taken X number of months to get half the book done, I felt it would be roughly the same to complete it. What I experience, however, was running into wall after wall after wall. It made the entire writing experience not a happy one as my days were filled with frustration.
Now I do the opposite. I work out what the hard bits will be and sort those first, if I can. As other hard bits crop up, due to twists and turns I didn’t see coming (and other complications), I deal with them as quickly as possible.
I cannot write a story from beginning to end. Those major events often get written first, and there’s always something that will flow and be magnificent that must be captured in writing, whether it’s that segment’s “turn” to be written or not – which is why I have bits written for books 4 and 5, and further notes for beyond those two.
On top of writing things out of order, once written, there will always be sections I need to pull away from and come back to, so I do move backwards and forwards as I work, reading and editing what’s there and filling in the gaps as I come to them, sewing pieces together and smoothing them down.
The gaps, therefore, build up to quite a large number. I currently have about 30 or 40 marker points, some marking areas that need reworking or that aren’t complete, but most of them mark gaps, which is merely a spot where something must be but doesn’t exist yet. As they decrease, some of the bigger gaps will break into smaller ones, swelling the number once more, even while the big gap is filling, so the gap count doesn’t mean an awful lot. And so it goes until I am done.
It all sounds very messy, I know, but that’s the way I do it. It works.
I think most writers do roughly this, with variation. So, what’s your favorite method? 😀
I’m attempting on my blog to show my process. It is as much for me as anyone. I can then go back and find ways to streamline it.
I do at least outline major scenes. I want the destinations of the important parts of the book. I then can take any path to those spots. There are always what I call “wibbles.” Parts of the story where I skipped something. Need to fix something. Something is questionable.
Yes, I’m with you, there are always those. I love your term for it – “Wibbles” is a great expression. 🙂 The whole process of writing a book is massive and there is so much to get right and to balance properly. The number of times I’ve nearly missed something out – something small that clarifies something or ties up a loose end – scares me. I write notes to myself now, “Don’t forget…” (usually in capitals) to make sure everything goes in.
I like the feel of your blog – you’re very open and honest and express yourself in a very easy style. I like how you work through things in the open, allowing others to see exactly the process that goes on.
Cheers to you. 😀
I’m writing the blog I would love to read from other authors. Most keep this type of process to themselves. Maybe it is too clunky. It isn’t smooth magic, it’s just luck mostly.
I use the word wibble b/c I can do a search for it and find all my need to fix items easily. May wish to pick a word that does not exist. I find everything very fast.
Funnily enough, I write the books I want to read. 😀
Being yourself when blogging, and writing the sort of blog you’d love to read, is by far the best way to do things. Same as being yourself. When I first started blogging I thought it would be hard work, but I find it very relaxing now and part of my routine. Most people are pretty good at being themselves – I’ve grown to really like this community. 🙂
The first novel I wrote was a short story turned into a novel, so I knew the ending and had to figure out how it got there. It worked but it was a mess. I don’t regret it. There was a lot of learning and exploration going on.
The other one was for Nanowrimo, so by necessity I scripted out what would happen from beginning to end. It was effective but lacked the flexibility to invent characters and explore areas that spontaneously came to life.
I’m trying to figure out what works best for me. I like your approach of knowing the major blocks and then filling in the gaps. I may try that. Recently I wrote a short story where I knew what had to happen, then played with how it happened as I wrote it. I used to refuse to plan. I wanted to be creative, not analytical. You need both.
I like to write things down and map them out. Sometimes it’s sticky notes on a wall, sometimes it’s sketched maps, sometimes it’s spreadsheets. I need to see it all at once and see how it’s working together, and then tag the different parts with ideas as they come up.
I like that idea of using sticky notes, you’d be able to see whole branches of potential opening up.
Certainly there are many ways. I agree with you about a writer’s need for flexibility to be able to be creative and allow characters to step forward and go where they want to go. Usually, I don’t get a story together until I have a series of events I want to play with. Sorting them into some sort of order is all I need then, and I can be off and running – depending on how clear the characters seem to me. I generally play in my mind until I know the characters well enough for them to speak for themselves.
It’s easy to get lost without some sort of mapping. In the early days, I pretty well just wandered off, not know where I would end up and just hoping the end result would give me a story. Perhaps fortunately, in the early years (still as a kid), I never finished anything. A few short stories were about it.
Like you, though, no regrets for any of it. Those years of learning have to happen. The trick, at that point, is for a writer not to let anyone destroy their soul before they have the strength they need to write something they can be really proud of. People don’t realize just how much unthinking criticism hurts a young writer, and no one tells the writer that it’s coming, either.
I do like your idea of mapping things out with sticky notes – they’re movable! I’ll map things out on paper with circles and arrows. Why on Earth didn’t I think of sticky notes?!
I use circles and arrows, too. The sticky notes are new. I rely *heavily* on them to write down ideas that pop up. Totally agree with what you said about not letting people destroy the writer’s soul. Writers are opening their hearts when they’re starting out, and when they’re at their best. The thick skin doesn’t grow until later.
Sometimes I think it’s only the survivors that have it. 🙂
As a writer, I have enough self inflicted scars. Maybe non-writers don’t realize that.
But dang, sticky notes, I’m trying that one on this idea I have. Hopefully the cold doesn’t have me crawling beneath the wool blanket and I can go out to get them.
I use a notebook, different colored gel pens, highlighters, spreadsheets, word documents, the blog…but I’ve never tried sticky notes! It is worth a shot.
I agree, I’ve never tried them either. I like that they can be moved around to help sort ideas without having the rework the entire map.
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