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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I Dove In!

Well, actually, I was pulled in, but same thing, right? The other day, I was at the pool with my kids, and due to the intense heat, I decided I needed to get in and cool off. I've always been a toe-dipper instead of one to just dive in, so I ran my foot through the water, thinking I'd get in slowly. But before I knew it, my son had a tight grip on my ankle, and I was falling sideways into the water. After a short tirade on my part, I realized my son had actually done me a favor. The water felt good. The same thing happened when I started writing my first novel. Only it was my characters pulling me in, not my son. I fully intended on outlining and doing character sketches before I started writing, but those characters had me typing frantically. Before I knew it, I had written three chapters. And they were fantastic! Oh, who am I kidding? They needed more work than my ten-year-old air conditioning unit. But I didn't care. I could edit later, right? This time around, things have been a little different. My characters are arguing with another voice inside my head--the strict editor lady who's cranky more than she is happy. So, do you work from an outline and character sketches? Do you edit while you're writing? Or do you just dive in and start writing like I did the first time around? I'd really like to know.


Lady Glamis said...

If you've been reading my outline series, that's how I work. I like organization and planning. However, for the first draft, I just dive in and write the whole messy thing without much planning. It's like a long, complicated outline!

MeganRebekah said...

I need a little bit of both. Before I start a scene or chapter I have to know in general where it's going or what should happen. Like the main points I need to hit. Other than that, I just let it flow and dive in!

Janna Qualman said...

Though I have quite a bit of info noted for reference with my current WIP, I'm just a loose outliner. I like to see where the story takes me, as I follow the rough course I laid out. And I've learned it's best for me to edit as I go. I have to polish (but not perfect, I know) during the process.

jbchicoine said...

Based on the premise that ‘90% of life is just showing up and the other 10% you work out on the way’: Just dive in. Outlines and character sketches can be developed as you go. The important thing is showing up…at the keyboard, that is.

Heather Sunseri said...

I do a little of both. I usually have a rough outline before I start, then I dive in, modifying that outline as I go. I keep the outline to remind me the order and timeline of how things have progressed in the story. I also keep a list of all characters as they enter the story. This is especially helpful for those characters who make limited appearances. I hate when I forget a character's name or eye color and am forced to go searching for it.

Cindy said...

I do lots of outlining in my head. I write down major scenes and conflicts and then I jump in. I develop more and more as I go.

Sharla said...

My first novel was completely unstructured, unplanned, put together piecemeal after writing scenes that weren't even chronological. The editing on that took me forever, but it made it finally.

This one I've highly structured. I wrote the scenes that started it in my head just to get them out, then I wrote out an outline, fought that for awhile, then did it again making sure to get my twists and plot points in at the right time. Did character sketches. Now I'm writing it going by my outline, and I don't have to worry as much about the structure because it's already done. It still changes as I write, and I have to tweak the outline accordingly, but the bones are there. I've found it's much easier for me to write now that I don't have to stress over what's next.

By the way, I didn't want to do any of that, kind of like prep before painting. I hate taping things off and laying down plastic and all that crap. I just want to paint! But it makes it go smoother so I force myself. That's what I did...the prep work, I forced myself, but now I'm glad I did!!

Sharla said...

Oh, and I completely edit as I go. But I do longhand first and it's messy and rough, then when I type it in it's pretty much final. I have to edit, I can't help myself!

strugglingwriter said...

I wish I could write from an outline, I really do. I think it would be so much easier. I just can't do it.

The story comes to me as I go. I don't know what's going to happen in chapter 3 until I've written chapter 2. Just the way I write.

Amber Lynae said...

I am stuck in prewriting, so it would probably be better to just dive in.

Lily said...

I find myself constantly editing while I write. I did start with a rough outline and character sketches for the basic storyline.

Anne Lyken-Garner said...

Definitely edit after writing, otherwise 'stuff' and 'rules' get in the way. You have a lovely blog.

Kathy said...

I dive right in. But I do edit as I go along. As a former proofreader, I can't stand seeing my mistakes along the way, so I fix them.

Diane said...

All those voices..... I guess every book is a different journey. Hope it goes smoothly for you!

Lazy Writer said...

Lady Glamis,
That's a good way to look at a rough draft. It's just a long, complicated outline.

Maybe I also need to do a little of both.

I've been editing as I go this time around, and I just feel like it is slowing me down. I'm sure the editing phase will be much quicker though.

Yes, showing up is the important thing!

I like the idea of keeping a list of characters. I hate it when I have to go back and search for a tiny detail about a character.

I suppose I do outline in my head. Rarely, though, does the story stick to the outline! :)

That's a great way to look at it. The prep work just makes the rest of the process go smoother.

Struggling Writer,
That's what happened to me on the first ms. I had no idea what was coming next. It was like reading a book instead of writing one.

Amber Lynae,
I think I might be stuck there, too. Maybe we should just dive in.

That's what I'm doing now, and I can't decide which way I liked better.

Thank you. And thanks for joining us! I look forward to getting to know you.

I bet your inner editor never goes away, does she?

Thanks Diane. And yes, you are right. I think every book is a different journey.

Karen said...

The best character-building advice I ever got was not to do long and drawn out character sketches with lengthy lists of their likes and dislikes. (That method doesn't work for me.) Instead, this author suggested to simply ask yourself, "What would this character do?" in every situation. When I started doing it that way, things go so much easier for me!

I normally just dive right in and right the first draft. Then I go back and take a year to revise/rewrite/edit the first two chapters! Gah! I really need to get to work.

Suzanne said...

great post!

I plan and then.... it comes. Like a wave and then it is written. The writing of the first draft is FAST for me. And then I have to outline and sketch and blah blah... but when that wave hits, man.... the family ducks and I am incommunicado for a few months.

Terri Tiffany said...

I did no editing at all on my third book--the one I love best. I just wrote as it came and got it all out and it went faster that way! Then the edits can come but honestly you can do it whatever way works for you!

Strange Fiction said...

I'm trying to find the happy medium between outlining and just jumping in. First ms was mostly seat of the pants, second I did an outline but find my characters are veering slightly in their own direction. It is difficult to hold back from editing as I go but I'm forcing myself to refrain.

Alicia2121 said...

When I write something, I just keep on writing until I finish. I do not edit anything until the article or paper is finished. Then, I go back and slowly read through what I have written. I do this slowly so that I don't miss anything since Microsoft Word does not catch every error. :) The more interested that I am in a subject, the faster that I will type until I am finished. It is hard for me to stop typing if the subject is very interesting. But, sometimes I have to stop due to time constraints. Then, I have to try to keep in mind the direction I was going in the paper when I get a chance to continue writing. The subject can definitely pull you in as you are writing.

Liana Brooks said...

I tend to be a dive in, and then around chapter 3 I stop to outline the rest before I forget everything.

I aim to not edit anything before the first rough draft is completed. Even if it means turning off the spelling and grammar check so I can just write.

Editing can work miracles, but not if you don't have something to work miracles on.

B.J. Anderson said...

I dive in and write my butt off. Then I go back and get critical. That doesn't mean I don't stop here and there to do a little simple editing, but I push through to the end for the most part.

Stephanie Faris said...

I don't do sketches beforehand, although I probably would benefit from it. But when I get an idea I just want to start writing and see what happens. Then as I go through I began outlining and charting the rest...I just have to get the initial story formed first.

Lazy Writer said...

That's a great idea!

I know exactly what you mean. My family is pretty much on their own when my creative juices start flowing!

Sometimes I wonder if the pre-edited version of my first ms was better than what I've got now.

I'd like to find that medium, too!

I agree. When I'm interested in what I'm writing, the writing comes much easier.

Turning of the spelling and grammer checker--that's a great idea!

I think that's how I work best, too. I just can't seem to get that editor lady to shut up, though! :)

I love that feeling of just writing and seeing where it takes you!

Kelly H-Y said...

I just start writing ... and I edit like crazy as I go ... I can't help myself!

Jungle Mom said...

I am trying to write an autobiography of our time living in the jungle of Venezuela. I have a lot of chapters and events written out but do not yet have the skills to bring it all together.
But write a must! Even though I am in way over my head.

jbchicoine said...


Yeah, think about it…if you show up at work, you may as well do something while you’re there.
If you show up at the grocery store, may as well pick up a few items.
If you show up at the dinner table, may as well eat.
If you show up at the keyboard…
None of that happens unless you show up. It’s pretty much how I run my life. I show up and hope the rest takes care of its self.

Anna C. Morrison said...

Dive in and write first, and appease the cranky editor lady with chocolate and Doby Grey. Then let the editor lady loose. Then shut her up again and add more prosy stuff. Then have the poet and the editor sit together and look for balance. It's a long process. And now I want to go swimming.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I dive on in and just get goin' -- I can't do outlines and characters sketches and never have and I'm pretty sure I never will - my brain just doesn't work like that...:)

nice post!

Lazy Writer said...

Kelly H-Y,
Sometimes I can't help myself either.

Jungle Mom,
How interesting. I'll have to check out your blog for more details. Thanks for stopping by!

You are so funny.

Sounds like a plan to me, but I'm not sure I can get the cranky editor later to shut up!

I've decided I can't do them either. It seems to keep me from actually writing.

jbchicoine said...

I don’t know about funny—it’s just my passive/assertive style…

DebraLSchubert said...

Just dive in, baby! I have an incredibly loose idea of the story when I begin, and I let me characters appear and tell the story. First draft is brutal. Sitting at the computer every day not having any idea what's going to show up is scary, but getting through it and to the end of the story is a major high. And, then the fun begins. I love editing and could do it forever. Great post!!!

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I have a random (as opposed to sequential) learning style, and that is how I write. I start with the whole story in mind and generally build the scaffolding, then I fill in as the muse hits -- including jotting notes on napkins in restaurants and bringing them to type into the appropriate chapter.

Beth said...

Hi Susan! I found your blog through Jennifer Shirk's (Me, My Muse and I). I really enjoyed reading around here :)

I'm an edit as a I go girl...but it's not working out for me! I spend more time editing than writing, so I'm trying to change my habits!

Barrie said...

I'm a definite outliner. Which doesn't mean I don't stray from time to time. :)

storyqueen said...

No outline, but I do a lot of pre-writing and writing about what I'm going to write before I write it......kind of like a bunch of "what if's?"

Thanks for stopping my my blog, by the way. It's always a treat to talk with another writer!


Lazy Writer said...

No matter what, it's still funny!

Getting to the end is a major high, isnt' it?

I'm so glad you found me, and thanks for joining us!

We are all human, which means we will stray from time to time.

I loved your blog! I look forward to spending more time there. And yes, isn't it such a treat to meet other writers?

Patti said...

I struggle with this all the time. When I do go back and read I get frustrated and think I am utter hopeless at this, but when I just write I feel like wow that was great.

I guess I have my answer right there.

FictionGroupie said...

I jumped in like you the first time and developed a really rough outline along the way. For the second try, I did a bare bones outline and brief character sketches before I started. I'm finding my editor is much more annoying this time and it messes with my creativity. I'm starting to think jumping in and then editing the heck out of it later was better.