Monday, August 6, 2012

Advantages of Giving It a Go

As some of you know from my previous post titled Inspiration and Serendipity, my parents loved to travel when I was young. Once, they took me to Singapore. This was not the Singapore of today with its high rises and western culture infused into the city. This was when Singapore had few tourists, when the local people rarely saw white children with blue eyes. I experienced a vast range of different foods at a time when the standard fare in Australian restaurants was prawn cocktails and crepe suzettes. I learnt to use chopsticks and ate dishes which included fish, rice, beans, and a whole range of unidentifiable ingredients. Mum taught me to be open-minded with my food.

What does this have to do with my writing?

When I first started writing I'd sit at an empty page and pour out the story without having pre-thought about the characters, the plot, or anything. I was in love with the romance of the journey of discovery. I held on to that method, dismissing all those who outlined, not listening to the possibility that planning could be just as fun and offer a greater advantage in the long run. Instead I'd stubbornly cling to the notion that I knew what was best for me, without even trying other methods.

My mum's voice floated back to me from those days of travel and new experiences. She reminded me that my stubbornness was like saying I didn't like certain foods without even trying them first—and I don't mean trying them with a preconceived idea of hating them, scrunching up the face to nibble a morsel as if it were poison. I mean giving them a proper go.

So I gave outlining a go—a proper go. I spent a month working out my characters, planning their story arcs, creating a world for them and plotting their scenes. I had a brilliant time and I quickly discovered the advantages. I could see the story as a whole before I'd even written it. I could take out scenes without having to pine over lost gems. My work became efficient, my writing became tight, and my story had a cohesive flow it didn't have before.

So, my advice is, don't say no to a possible method before you give it a proper go. You won't truly know whether or not it works for you until you try.

What are some methods you've stubbornly clung to only to discover later that a different system worked better after all?
--

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70 comments:

  1. Singapore without tourists. Now that's a thought!
    I do a lot more outlining these days too.
    Ah, fond memories of prawn cocktails, lol!

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  3. I have always wanted to visit Singapore and Australia. You are right, we should not dismiss a method without giving it a proper go.

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  4. A nice experience in Singapore. in my childhood I could not travel at all. Greetings.

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  5. Glad you gave outlining a go!
    I didn't think I could write on the computer. Wrote my first book longhand before entering it into the computer. But NaNo 2010 taught me I could write it on the computer first.
    I lived in Japan for a couple years when I was very little - that's where I learned to use chopsticks and try different foods. And that little blonde boys were attention getters!

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    1. yeah, I still write longhand for NaNo because the computer offers far too many distractions for me when I'm trying to stay focussed. It makes for a long writing day, but I love it.

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  6. You know, I have to write the story first-first draft- find the connections then outline and work out the characters. I guess, I'm a panster-plotter. ***shrugs***

    Hugs,
    Shelly
    http://www.shellysnovicewritings.blogspot.com/

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  7. Yay for lovely Madeleine and her debut book!!!

    I tend to be so fuzzy and unfocused I do a little bit of outlining and pantsing my stories - whatever I feel like doing when I stare at my blank page with a vague idea of a vague story!

    Take care
    x

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    1. Yep, I still use your method when I write short stories. I like to mix it up ;)

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  8. Good words. I guess I'm still new enough that I don't have a set method yet. I'm a panster but I have tried plotting and it didn't work to well. Know that I know more about it I might try it again differently. I tend not to think in scenes. Maybe that will come day too.

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    1. Everyone works differently. The key is finding what works best for YOU. :)

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  9. Like you were, I'm not one for outlining much, though I know it's something I should do. Pantsing just doesn't work right but I have more fun doing it!

    Jamie @ Mithril Wisdom

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    1. To me outlining is my pantsing stage only it's faster because I don't have to write out entire scenes. I guess I love it so much because I enjoy working quickly and the freedom it gives me. But like I said in a previous comment, we all have to work out what's best for us on an individual level.

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  10. What a wonderful lesson your mother gave you.

    I think there are no shoulds. There are famous, talented authors who don't outline. I'm still a panster, but I've been more thoughtful about structure, arcs, and so on earlier in the project. I don't think I'd say "never" to outlining. If I ever want a book deal for a series, I'd better have some sense of where the stories and characters are going. I also believe if we get stagnant in our methods, we can stagnate in our writing.

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    1. That's actually a very good point about stagnating. I might even write a blog post about it... hmmm... ;)

      And yes, I was simply using outlining as an example of trying a different method. Outling is definitely not for everyone, but it is worth a go because it might surprise you. A writer won't know if s/he doesn't try.

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  11. planning or not planning, it all depends on whether you have the river of inspiration in you or not. The stories just come out of some people like a flood without any warning, and with some even the outlining takes years...

    PS wouldn't wanna have to wash all those dishes from the pic :PP

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    1. Yeah, I wish the flood happened to me more often ;)

      And I took that pic in South Korea a few years ago. What an amazing feast we had!

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  12. I haven't done any writing as such but I will take your advice because I want to write.

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  13. I was a kind of semi-pantster, semi-outliner and not all that convinced about the latter. But I'm changing my ways. Being open to change, to new/different ways of doing things is always good. It keeps us fresh and awake.

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  14. I used to dive into a story knowing the plot but not the characters. Now I do character sketches and interviews before I begin.

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  15. Bless you Lyndsay for promoting my novel.
    I agree with you about trying different things, if it doesn't work then that's ok, if it does it's a great elap forward.

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    1. Oops I mean Lynda!
      Lots of typos in the above comment, sorry. I meant Leap not elap. Oh dear! ;O)

      So I've been mixing my spellings in my blurb for Lyndsay as well. Oh dear! Thanks for letting me know. :O0 !

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  16. Wonderful advice, Lynda! I can be scattered - using outlines, SOTP - and sometimes a combo. I agree with Theresa; there are no "shoulds". Only wonderful possibilities!

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  17. I went through the exact same process. And instead of years to complete a first draft I did it in nine months. Pantsting was fun but I think outlining is the better method for me.

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  18. L, I've been enormously stubborn about 'methods' in the past but the way you structured this post has spoken to me in a manner that others who have basically believed the same thing have not.

    Thank you so much for this.

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    1. That means a great deal to me. I sincerely hope it helps. Hugs.

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  19. You're right, of course. You can't something doesn't work unless you've tried it. Thanks.

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  20. It's good to try different methods, but it's also good to stick with what works for you. I outline and do as detailed a design as I can. I don't think it takes away from the creativity at all. For me, it just minimizes revisions.

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    1. That time-saving element is a big one for me ;)

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  21. I have tried a lot of different ways to write until I found the way that worked for me. And not all my ways work for everyone.

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  22. I think I'd rather apply this philosophy to traveling than to writing. But I'm scared LOL.

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  23. I'm trying to outline more myself, although I think I still do a combination of the two.

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  24. I'm not usually an outline person, but I have used that method several times. I'm not always set in my ways. I do like to try different things or ways...Always good to expand yourself.

    Great post!

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  25. I don't know if I am an outliner or a pantser. I finished my first full length novel recently. I didn't outline (like they taught you in college), but I had hundreds of note cards that I used for scenes, characters, setting, and historic dialogue. I know if I hadn't done that I wouldn't have been able to write the story.

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    1. It sounds like you do a bit of both. And there is nothing wrong with that! I don't think I could write a story without all my notes too. They help to keep everything consistent.

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  26. I have found outlining to be extremely helpful. I stay on track better and actually complete manuscripts.

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  27. Is there a particular method of outlining you found? I do more than I used to, but nothing as extensive as you've divulged here.

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    1. Hmm, my method of outlining... I hadn't thought about it, I kinda just do it. Let me see... Hmm, cough, I started writing out my method for you in the comment. It turned in a long wall-o-text so I decided to convert it into a blog post for next week :)

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  28. I'm an avid outliner, at least, that's what I call it. Some might say it's just a hand-written first draft sans dialogue and setting. But whatever it is, I consider it a road map. I follow it pretty religiously though I do take detours now and then. I couldn't write any other way.

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  29. I'll use outlining, depending on what it is I'm working on.

    Thanks for sharing about Singapore.

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  30. I tried to pants once and it was a complete and utter failure! But at least I tried! So I stick to outlining like a fiend. :)

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    1. You are the first writer I know who has tried going from plotting to pantsing. I'm impressed you tried.

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  31. I've always wanted to be a plotter - but it's slow going to get there. I'm working on a new ms right now (silly me signed up for the Aug Nano after it started) and I'm using Scrivener for the first time. It's giving me a taste of outlining and I'm liking it. I've got little character bios and some ideas in advance. I think I'll do even more with it for the next story!

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    1. I've not tried Scrivener before. I love Ms Word but I'm curious about Scrivener.

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  32. Yes, nice and good methodology. Greetings.

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  33. Such good advice... It's easy to get stuck in a particular way... I went to Singapore once, though not sure you could call it that since it was a stop over on my way to Sri Lanka...:)

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    1. yep, I count stop-overs. That way I can say I've been to Bahrain ;)

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  34. This is definitely great advice, Lynda. I will say that I've given outlining a go and am not a huge fan - it seems to stifle me for some reason. But at the same time I totally see the advantages of plotting, because with pantsing often comes a great big mess you've got to wade through later on anyway. ;)

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  35. Great advice.
    It's still early days for me... but I'm certain that I'm more plotter than pantser since I love organisation and a sense of structure. But I'm prepared to keep an open mind...

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  36. Wonderful advice. I'm trying to become more of a note taker and plotter, but I always deviate from any outline I start out with. It helps to take notes when revising, though.

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  37. I've learned so much along the way, and I'm really just getting started. I have yet to try the outline too, but I think you're right that the process could only be beneficial.

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  38. wonderful food for thought as always :)

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  39. You and I have made the same journey. Not to Singapore, but along the writing path. And we came to the same conclusion. I'm loving knowing where I'm going before I begin :)

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  40. Eek, I don't know... I've tried outlining and it always results in the story never being written at all. I can only do outlines and lists and charts once I have at least the first draft down.
    Your description of Singapore reminds me of the descriptions in the letters of Alfred Russel Wallace, the 19th century entomologist/biologist (I've been transcribing some of them).

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  41. Like you, I started out just writing, but I went to plotting and think the one I plotted completely is the best novel I've written to date.

    Having read this, I'm wondering if the lack of proper plotting for my current novel is the reason I can't get it finished.

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  42. I started plotting from my first novel. Some habits never die!

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  43. I used to insist to myself that I would get a specific amount of writing done in the early morning, regardless of how inspired I felt, since I thought I'd have more ideas after I woke up. I stuck with it for a few months until abandoning it for afternoon/evening writing, which works a lot better for some reason.

    Great post!

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  44. I've always been more of a pantser, but I have tried plotting a few times. I read the book The Weekend Novelist, which definitely emphasized plotting; it sounded interesting. And it's good when you find a method that works for you and that you enjoy. I think that one of the reasons I haven't done as much plotting in my fiction writing, though, is because I have to write outlines for my academic papers. So I guess I've been doing the opposite for fiction writing.

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  45. I've only recently gotten brave with sampling new foods - and discovering how much I love them (I used to gag Thai and Indian food). And yes, I'm won over to outlining, too. I still find room for those glorious tangents of discovery, even when I'm sticking to an outline.

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  46. I recently finished my first story that I outlined. My second draft was much easier to edit and I think I'll have a better story throughout.

    There is an award waiting for you on my blog. Congratulations!

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  47. I guess I've become more open to new and different experiences simply because I realized how boring it was when you stuck to the same things over and over.

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  48. I've been all over China, but never made it over there. My husband has been to Singapore. He was disappointed because he said it seemed like another big city, but he wasn't there for long.

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  49. I'm a plotter and my outlines have become more detailed over time.

    Many times I've come across a method recommended on a blog. I've tried many, but not all. They've done wonders for my writing.

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  50. Yes, interesting Ultimate Sacrifice.

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  51. Being open to new experiences and new ideas makes life richer and more prone to opening doorways of success. And if nothing else it can be a heck of a lot of fun.


    Lee
    Wrote By Rote

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  52. Great thoughts and analogy! I'm all for outlining and not pining over those lost gems...

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  53. I continue as a pantser. I have tried outlining in a number of different ways, but pantsing works best for me. It does result in more work after the fact.

    In a sense, I guess you could say that my first draft IS my outline. Although last year with NaNo when I tried plotting I did learn that the story takes a different angle if I have some idea of who the characters are before I start. Haven't finished that one yet. I got bored.

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