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Monday, July 28, 2008

The Mulberry Bush and Writing Buddy Goals Week Five

Here we go again, around and around and around. You'd think with all this "around" business, I would be able to better handle the Tilt-a-World at the county fair.

What am I talking about? I am talking about which comes first, the Outline or the Pages? Now all of you die hard outliners out there will obviously say the outline. And all of you "organic" writers will say... well, it's a little of both, back and forth, do what you need as you need it.

OK. Fine. I've done it the "organic" way for a year and what I've found is I've done a lot of spinning. I also call this crazy method two-stepping because I take one step forward and two steps back (or three or four...).

Another week has passed, another week's worth of goals, and still no real amount of viable new pages have passed through my fingertips to my computer screen. Why is that? This was the topic of today's phone conference with my therapist... Er... I mean writing buddy, which is beginning to feel a little like therapy for writers.

What we discovered...
The reason I am not writing new pages is because there is still so much I have to know. I still need to do research and figure things out and fill the gaps in my story. For example, I know the ending will involve my MC realizing her journey is only just beginning - setting the stage for a sequel - but I am still unsure what her larger calling is. I know it will be some Earth First kind of thing, but I am unsure what specifically. Because I still have all these gaps and holes, I am having great difficulty writing forward.

So, I am putting this question out there to all of you, my fellow writers...
Do you think it is better for me to spend the rest of the summer (or however much time I need) to fill in all these gaps in my outline, by researching, reading, brainstorming, interviewing, etc, making sure my outline has filled in all these gaps and holes and then write the ending?

Or do you think I should just keep my notes as to all my gaps and holes, and just write the ending as if I have solved all my problems?

Which is better? Which do I work on first... or at least work on now... the Outline, or the Pages. I know writing pages will sometimes lead you away from your outline and that is the "organic" part to writing and I am OK with that.

I am used to spending my summers reading, researching, and note taking. Maybe I should listen to my natural rhythms of writing -- my process -- and not fight them or force them to be what I want when I want. OR... Is that what real writers do? -- force themselves to write no matter what, even if it's against their natural process or rhythm.

What rules me? Or should I say who (or what) rules whom? Do I rule my process, or does my process rule me????

Like I said, here I go 'round the mulberry bush...again...

This Week's Goals
  1. Fill in the gaps and holes of my story. Figure things out now, not later.
  2. Research about black willow trees vs white willow trees in folklore and Celtic mythology.
  3. Research rain forests -specifically what ones are at most danger, what is being done to continue the hurt, what is being done to stop it?
  4. (aside from writing...) Finish steps 4, 5, and 6 of refinishing my daughter's dresser.

Let me know what you think? Do I write to the end regardless of all my gaps and holes? Or do I get my outline airtight?

23 comments:

PJ Hoover said...

Can you make a compromise? Set up a defined amount of time to research and a defined amount of time to just write?
Also, know when you physically can do both. Research is something I can do while the kids are in the same room playing on their computer. Writing is not. So I take advantage of my true alone time to crank out the pages when I need to. Because there's just not that much of it.

Sheri said...

That makes sense PJ. I, also, cannot write when they are around, but I can read and research. So that just might work.

Sarah Hina said...

I hate the pure research stage. Ugh. All I want to do is create, damn it! ;) And yet...I think those holes will eat at you, Sheri.

I tried to just write through it for my last novel. But I think sometimes it can feel like you're driving blindfolded. You can't see the whole picture. You might miss some wonderful detour because you're short-sighted by your own limitations.

Research is often a grind, but it can also serve as a great idea factory. Let yourself stew in it for awhile. Build your confidence. The right directions might become obvious once you're marinating in it long enough.

But that's just my opinion! Good luck on however you choose to tackle it. :)

JR's Thumbprints said...

Don't force it. Enjoy it. Embrace it.

From my own personal experience: What's worse than a bad story? When it's published and you can't take it back.

You'll get there.

Erin Melanie said...

If it's not coming naturally, then maybe the problem is needing to finish the research. Once you're confident in your subject matter, I bet everything will come out a lot more easily, and you'll feel less spinny. Anyways, that's what usually works for me - straight up confidence. Or maybe it's the confidence to write to the end, despite realizing the holes will have to be fixed later.

It's a pretty good question though. I've definitely a predicament. Good luck, and thanks for the post! :)

keri mikulski :) said...

I agree with PJ. And that's exactly what I do. True, interrupted alone time is writing time. And research, marketing, publicity, and outlines is what I do the rest of the time. Good luck. :)

Angie Frazier said...

Sheri, I have been where you are, and I definitely feel filling in the gaps with the research you need to do is worth the frustration (and the lack of pure creative writing). PJ's idea to research while watching the kids is great.

If you don't fill in the holes now, and move on in the story, you might just come back to those holes, fill them in later, and realize the story would have gone in a completely new direction. It's happened to me :( and it's not fun!!

Sheri said...

Hey Sarah - it does feel like driving blindfolded. I use that analogy a lot too. I don't mind the research stage. But I usually reserve it for the summer and write new pages from Sept - June. So I am slightly askew with trying to write new pages now.

Today I filled in the gaps to a lot of my outline (still more to fill in...)and it felt great! I researched yesterday when the kids were home like PJ suggested and then today I just brainstormed and wrote a bunch of questions and then answers to those questions, which led to more questions... when the house was quiet and I could really think. I think I know 90% more about my antagonist, who has been an unknown entity to me. So I am very excited!!! I could hardly breathe while I was pondering.

Sheri said...

Thanks JR! Yesterday my head was clouded with the complexity of Harry Potter (I'm reading the 6th book and LOVING it). I felt very unworthy. And you're right, forcing it, only made it worse. So today, my brainstorming session was exactly what I needed!

Sheri said...

Hey Erin, Welcome! I think you are spot on too, btw. Today, knowing the more that I now know about my story and characters, makes me feel charged and ready to write. But I will not yet. I will pull back on the reigns. Not until all my holes and gaps are filled in my outline, will I let myself write forward. Then I will let myself have at it!

Sheri said...

Hey Sarah - it does feel like driving blindfolded. I use that analogy a lot too. I don't mind the research stage. But I usually reserve it for the summer and write new pages from Sept - June. So I am slightly askew with trying to write new pages now.

Today I filled in the gaps to a lot of my outline (still more to fill in...)and it felt great! I researched yesterday when the kids were home like PJ suggested and then today I just brainstormed and wrote a bunch of questions and then answers to those questions, which led to more questions... when the house was quiet and I could really think. I think I know 90% more about my antagonist, who has been an unknown entity to me. So I am very excited!!! I could hardly breathe while I was pondering.

Sheri said...

Keri, Welcome too! PJ does always give great advice. I love hearing everyone's thoughts. It is so helpful.

Angie, filling in the gaps did prove productive. I have so many ideas in my head now and I feel great! And I also agree with you that writing to the end, just to write to the end is not fun when it's only to find out you have wasted your time. True it's all worth it in the end if it all leads to a great story, but why write just to write if I already know I'm not on the right track.


Thanks everyone! Your help has been great.

PJ Hoover said...

You're sweet, Sheri! And don't sell your own advice short. You always make me stop and think which is so fantastic!

beth said...

*waves hello!* I saw you over on PJ's site and thought I'd add my two cents to your dilemma.

When I get stuck, I research. But I rarely outline. I suppose this wastes time, but I would rather write the story on the fly than outline--I usually have a decent idea of where it's going in my head, and I let my research dictate what happens on the page.

Sarah Hina said...

Awesome, Sheri! So glad you had a breakthrough today. :) Treasure that good feeling...and hope for the next!

Scott said...

Sheri - I find that there are as many opinions on how to approach the process of writing as there are writers. It's a personal matter, one that cannot be answered by anyone but you. I started reading a book called No Plot, No Problem, which posits that you just need to sit down and write come what may. Suffer through the "shitty" first draft and revise later. The idea is that no matter how bad it is little gems will drop through the cracks. I'm having trouble with that, but I think that's what I need to do. The book also says to make a list of all the elements of stories that you have read or seen in movies that you absolutely loved, and another of things you hate. You can review the love list to remind you as you move along, and the hate list to insure that you don't fall into any traps, because apparently this is what happens when you are stuck for direction.

Sheri said...

Thanks PJ! That tickles me pink to know that.

Beth, Welcome! So glad you did put in your two cents. I am amazed at your ability to do this w/o an outline. I used to be that way too. But I am finding the thicker I am into writing my novel, I really need an outline to keep me straight so I can fine any plot holes, inconsistencies and foreshadowing or loose strings I need to tie. I found that trying to keep that all in my head kept my brain too full and so I wasn't able to write in that "zone." It really is true; there are as many writing styles as there are writers!

Sarah, I know. I am still on a high from yesterday!

Funny Scott! I just wrote that to Beth, and I swear I am reading and commenting in order. You know what they say... great minds.... And I've heard of this writing concept you are talking about. It really doesn't work for me. The re-writing process is really hard for me. So I tend to write and re-write as I am going along. I love the love/hate lists. That's a great idea. And I'm sure all of you fellow writers are just as opinionated about the movies and books you read as I am. Ahhh... where to begin...

Thanks everyone!

Parabolist said...

Write, write, write to completion! Those gaps and wholes can be filled in later--and will be in revision when you can 'see' all of the broad strokes. Once you see the forest, you can paint the trees.

Its always good to have a few of the trees picked out ahead of time, of course.

Sheri said...

Para - your advice is better than you know. My story has a lot to do with trees, so your analogy was spot-on!

Jeanne said...

I say just keep writing through to the end - drop in some brackets or whatever where there are things you need to research, UNLESS, the story cannot move forward without the knowledge the research would reveal.
Saw your note about the rainforest. Knowing Tristan is American, might she not want to deal with the horrific clearcutting of old growth forest that is happening right here in the good ole US of A?
To me, sounds like you're moving forward despite the trips around the mulberry bush!

Sheri said...

Yes, Jeanne, I never really clicked with the rainforest ideas, but I was looking for a global issue. I think if she takes care of the US and others around teh world appear and take care of their portion of earth, that would work too.

Thanks for your comments and ideas.

ChrisEldin said...

Hope it's not too late to chime in. I agree with PJ. It's hard to get actual wrting time in with the children around, but it is easier to research. Plus, while you're researching, other ideas might come to you. If it were me, I'd do the research and totally put the writing on hold until school starts, which is less than a month.

Good luck!!
:-)

Sheri said...

Hey Chris! Thanks for joining in! I completely agree and in fact, that is my new goal for this week and the rest of the summer as well - research and continue outlining, save writing for September!!

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous