Saturday, April 03, 2010

Just What I Needed

Over the past few weeks (okay, months) I've been trying to learn as much as possible about plotting and structure. I just knew that one of the books would hold the key to writing. If I could just understand plot, I'd never get stuck again. I'd never have to back up ten thousand words and start in a new direction.

The book would practically write itself!

Those who know me will understand why this appeals to me so much. I'm very analytical, logical, and organized. I've always worked with goal lists, created technical manuals, and worked toward maximum efficiency. I was a computer programmer and a manufacturing engineer. Those are worlds where you plan and measure, where logic and structure rule.

So it made sense that if I just learned the right way to do it, I could apply a similar approach to my writing. No more writing by the seat of my pants, I could go into my next book with a nice, neat plan and never look back.

Great, except that it didn't work. I plotted out the book, started to write, and hated it. It was boring, the characters were flat, and it felt like pulling teeth. I was devastated. My plan to plan failed miserably.

Then I read Jo Beverly's great article in the RWR, and looked up her old convention speech from 1999 about what she calls flying into the mist (fimming). It turns out that despite my penchant for structure and planning in the rest of my life, I'm a fimmer at heart.


I have to say I was disappointed that there's no magic ingredient, no key to unlock the door to easy, quick writing. Well, duh! ;-) But most of all, I was relieved. Jo Beverly understood exactly who I am, and she made it okay.

So, to all my fellow fimmers, you're not alone. And to the plotters of the world, just know that I envy you. And no matter how you write, just do it!


Louisa Cornell said...

Gwen, I too felt a great sense of relief after I read Jo Beverley's article! I have tried to plot my books and even managed to at least the events that need to happen in the last four or five chapters of each one. But, when it comes to plotting the entire book - outlining in detail scene and chapter and verse? Nope. Not happening.

Is it scary to write like I do? Absolutely! When my CP says "How many more chapters?" and I say "No clue." I know she wants to reach through the internet and tear my hair out.

But, for me, the story comes to me as it is told by the characters. Do they go off on tangents and lead me down a rabbit hole sometimes. Absolutely! However, almost always the journey teaches me something about the characters and their story that makes the trip worthwhile!

Lexi said...

Totally agree with all of you, Jo included! Just read her article "Flying into the Mist" and felt validated. I cannot write by numbers. Nope, doesn't work for me. Sure, I like to have a general idea what the book's about and a rough idea of what I want to happen when I start a chapter, but nine times out of ten, things happen I don't anticipate. Always a surprise and most times a delight, though I do explore the occasional rabbit trail. I, too, have plotter envy. But, alas, I am a pantser.

Gwen Hernandez said...

Hey, Louisa. I've learned this week that we're a large group. It's scary to sit back and trust that it will turn out all right, but right now I can't make it happen any other way!

And, yes, the rabbit holes still teach us something. I'm learning to look at them as warm ups and practice. ;-)

Gwen Hernandez said...

Jeanie: I'm with you. I need some idea, premise, or spark, and I try to start each scene with an idea where I'm going. Whether or not I end up there is another story. ;-)

Carla Swafford said...

The problem with flying through the mist is hitting that blasted mountain. That's what I did with my current WIP. I'm determined to find a way around it and I know no amount of character study or interviewing I do, will help it along. Instead it will fly out of the dark one night and save me when I least expect it. Just wished it would hurry up. So yes, I understand what you're saying perfectly.

Christine said...

Regardless of "how" we write a book, the truth is we all hit mountains and feel like it's painful. I am a hybrid writer. There's no way I can just "stick to the plan" without losing sight of the characters and their stories.

But wrestling the mess back into shape is hard, hard work.

Great post and loved the article as well.

Gwen Hernandez said...

I know what you mean, Carla. I hit the mountain every time. It's what I was trying to avoid, but I'm learning to see it as part of the process.

I have to have faith that my subconscious will come up with something eventually. It hasn't failed me yet, but I always worry!

Gwen Hernandez said...

So true, Christine. Anyone who thinks writing is a piece of cake has never done it, IMO. ;-)

Heather said...

Great post! I concur 100%. I crave organization and structure, but the more I try to plot proactively, the less I get done. The best parts of my story are the little boogers that rear their unplanned little heads and take me off in different directions that I hadn't anticipated. So far, the thing that has worked best for me is planning the ending first. I think my writing is devolving into a family trip on back roads where you know your destination, but happily take detours to see the world's largest ball of string or eat bbq at the restaurant in East Nowhereville that you read about on the internet.

M.V.Freeman said...

Ha! So now I know what I am!A drunken squirrel who morphs into a Fimmer..fitting.

LOL, Gwen, this is a great post.

I have to have an idea, I need to know where I am going, but how I get there, well I have to leave it up to my characters who sometimes have better ideas than I do.

Now, I wish I could just relax and write faster, and my characters would just TALK more. :-)

Gwen Hernandez said...

Heather: I use the travel analogy all the time to describe my writing. It's so fitting. I like to have some idea of the ending, but if I pin it down to much it never works. *sigh*

I guess just like life, every book is a journey.

Gwen Hernandez said...

LOL, we should call ourselves Squirrels in the Mist! :-)

I wish I could write faster and get my characters to talk more, too! Good luck with it.

M.V.Freeman said...

Outstanding! Squirrels in the mist...Oh my stars! You had me laughing out loud.

Now, Gwen, I just need to get more of your organizational skills as well! :-)

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prashant said...

when it comes to plotting the entire book - outlining in detail scene and chapter and verse? Nope. Not happening.
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