Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Creative Process, Part 2

Hah! Second post in less than a week. Told you I’d do better.

Anyway, I was thinking more on the creative process. There are many ways to write a book. Some, like one of my favorite authors, C.J. Cherryh, do an outline first. They then follow the outline as they write, amplifying the “points.” I think this is probably the most efficient way—you know your starting point, you know where you’re going, and you know how you’re going to get there. And if the story changes on you half way there (as it sometimes does), just do another outline incorporating the changes.

Another favorite author, Diana Gabaldon, does not use outlines. What she does is write as the ideas hit, developing scenes in no particular order. When she feels she has enough, she strings what she’s written together in chronological order and then fills in the gaps. This, I think, would be the most fun, writing what you feel like writing until you have a book. Of course, it takes truly knowing your characters and story, and also discipline—to know when (and where) to begin and where (and when) to stop.

Two very successful authors with two wildly different writing techniques.

Me, I do neither. Or maybe it’s a combination of the two. I know the starting point and generally know the ending. The in between, though—the getting from prologue to epilogue—I have no clue until I actually write it. Sometimes it’s logical. If A happens, then B must follow and C is close behind. (One of the reasons I have problems with prequels—do not start me in the middle of the story. Please.) But sometimes it’s not; there was a scene in Covenants where there were three logical outcomes, and I had a hard time deciding which one to choose. So I chose all three, threw them in the pot, and watched the fun bubble up.

And there are times when character will insist on doing things his way. Or hers. Or theirs. They just totally Bogart my story and start telling what they want to tell. Like the way Guardsman Jeffen has just managed to muscle his way past Suiden, Laurel, Wyln and even Rabbit to take center stage. I don’t know how long this will last, but I’ll watch to see what bubbles up next.


  1. I must apologize, I started laughing when you were talking about writing styles. I am very much a write at will, when the scene comes to me I start to write it and sometimes I can't get it on paper fast enough, so I start with the beginning of a scene, and then jump to say nine chapters later. I have finally gotten to a point where I can string things together, but it takes me longer to get to that part.

    I also understand what you mean when you say your characters start to make demands, been there done that. Unfortuantly I haven't finished my rough draft so I'm not published yet, but I understand what your saying. Sorry I typed so much, but that post just amused me to no end.

  2. No problem with the post. And it sounds like you write like Diana Gabaldon, which is very good company to be in.

    Good luck with your book :)

  3. im sure JK Rowling said that she wrote Harry Potter like that

  4. Yeah, on napkins in a cafe. I watched an interview with her once and she pulled a box from beside her desk out and showed it to them. Inside the box were hundreds of scraps of paper. She said that she wrote idea's and threw them in the box and when she was coming up blank she would pull a paper out of the box and start writing to see how far that would take her.