Category Archives: Writing Theory

Writing Theory

Discovery Writing

I am a discovery writer. Despite some interesting experiences in the last few weeks, I tend not to do well with pre-planning, extensive outlines, detailed character biographies, and most else that doesn’t involve drafting and revising.

I should qualify that a little bit. I think that there’s a continuum of writing styles, from the heavy outliners to the discovery writers. Most people will hover about the middle half of that continuum, where they like to do a little bit of planning a head of time, and a little bit of figuring it out as they go.

The “figure it out as I go” part of the scale is where I feel most at home. In 2008, I abandoned my first NaNoWriMo idea (which I had done a fair bit of planning for) and started an entirely new novel with different characters, setting, plot, and genre on November 3rd. I still won that year and not only was it a blast, but it was one of the better novels I’ve written – in fact I’m revisiting a lot of the concepts in it for this year’s NaNo novel.

On the other hand, this doesn’t always work so well.

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How Do you Keep On Going?

That’s not a rhetorical question. I only have a few readers, but I’m honestly curious what they think about this question: how do you keep working, keep writing, keep not surfing the internet, when the tough times come? If I have a great deadline in NaNoWriMo, then that usually does the trick for me, but usually that’s not the case and it’s up to me to keep me interested.

I’m not having any huge difficulties right now, although I feel like I might be on the borderline. I’m doing my story outlining, as I mentioned previously, and it’s pretty much as boring as I expected. I keep running into the problem of balancing story elements, and I’m starting to get a bit concerned that I don’t have enough subplots (of all things). Sometimes this entire project just seems incredibly difficult.

Of course, it is incredibly difficult. Most people would never finish it. For that matter, I may never finish it (although I plan to!). So here’s how I’m coping: I admit to myself that what I’m doing is difficult and a little boring. But I make myself sit in front of this laptop for at least two 30-minute intervals, not browsing the internet, not playing Minesweeper, just staring at my Word documents. Eventually, doing nothing becomes more boring than writing, and I’ll start typing again.

I also turn the internet off.

Anyway, short post today. I’m honestly curious about what you think, so please sound off in the comments! This will be the last post until next Monday; I’ll be out of town and away from internet until then. Bon voyage!

Avoiding Cliches

I’m not sure if science fiction has the most cliches of any literary genre, but it’s sure got a pile of them.* Go ahead and think for a second, I bet you’ll come up with a few even if you’re not really into science fiction.

As a noob science fiction writer, my goal is to stand out by trying to avoid or invert as many cliches as possible without becoming contrary for the sake of contrariety. I’ve put a little bit of thought into this today and I figured I’d list a few ways that I’m trying to be a little different, while at the same time revealing some worldbuilding details that you might be interested in. I decided to go for the first cliches that popped into my head: warp drive (or FTL, whatever), the world government, and (blah) space as an ocean.

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Characters as Plot

So, as my last post suggested, I had a few unpleasant writing days at the end of last week, culminating in a low point on Saturday. I just felt worthless, unable to succeed, unable to even produce.

And then, yesterday (just after my last post, in fact) I had one of the most brilliant writing days in recent memory. Today, I had another one. I feel like I’m on a roller coaster and I’m my heart is plunging into my stomach as I rocket up a steep incline.* So, let me tell you exactly what has triggered this burst of production.

Well, most basically, it was just shutting up, sitting down, and writing. But that’ll always help so I’ll spare the lecture. What was really remarkable about the last couple of days was something entirely new to me in all of my experience in writing: figuring out the plot of my story all the way though by developing the characters.

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