Or “organic writing.” Interesting words, all.
I first read the term organic writing somewhere on Internet a couple months ago. I don’t know how long the term’s been around, or who coined it, or why. I just know it fits me fine.
I’ve never sat down and wrote a synopsis in my life…first. In school, I wrote the paper or essay then made the paragraph or two-long synopsis. I hate outlines too. I hated it when I had to do a science experiment and write a long paper describing every step, turning point, find and assessment. Oh, don’t forget your outline!…said every teacher everywhere.
I know what the teacher expected. She wanted us to think through what we were going to do and make note of the steps first. Not! I didn’t do it then either. I never made the steps. I just threw gasoline on the fire and jumped up and down smiling like a lunatic at the blaze, then wrote a report.
I write my fiction quite like that as well. If you hear me use the term outlining that usually means that I’m making a list of characters, character traits, and all the places they’ll visit. Do they like pizza with or without mushrooms? Outlining might include, or actually be, character mapping. For my “vampire” related series, the vampires and others in the story have family lines and some characters are reincarnates, so I had to do a tree to keep all the peeps or history in order.
In my new release, Someday Always Comes, I did absolutely no outlining, nor did I write a synopsis beforehand. Sorry, I can’t work that way. The most I did with them is a little cataloguing of who they are and their entrances into the story. I did this because there are characters who are mentioned at one point in time, then disappear. I wanted to keep track of these characters so that I could clear up loose ends and tie things together, leaving no strings lying about.
I started a synopsis, for the first time ever, for a story idea I’ve been toying with – a novel called The Ghosts of Willow Marsh. I started it a long, long…long time ago, and the synopsis is at about 1 ½ pages, while the story is much further along. Whenever I pull up the synopsis, I just stare at the blinking cursor. So, se la vie, synopsis.
One of my favorite things is when the synopsis actually turns into the story, as it did with Someday Always Comes. Hey, biotches, you can’t stop the muse. I highly doubt I will ever outline anything…I mean, while being true to the definition of outline anyway.
Currently, I’m dabbling with three or so different writing projects, and they’re all vying for my time and attention. It won’t be long before one of them wins out over the others and I’ll start pecking away diligently at the computer.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do work out scenes, and sometimes write them out by hand. In fact, for one of said projects I’m working on now, the very tentatively titled, Rise of the Witch Clan, I have several scenes on paper. Unfortunately none of those scenes are bridged to any other scenes, and collectively make zero sense. Also, I have questions written down, with different ideas or answers. A question about a ring. A question about a book. Yadda. Then I have tentative answers.
I keep an electronic folder for deleted scenes, or scenes I might save to possibly rework into the story, or its sequel. I mean that whole scene about the missing Suri being found, then summoned through a water fountain, gown flowing, hovering there like a goddess…Hell, surely there’s room for that beautiful scene somewhere. Of course, I know it doesn’t sound beautiful to you, but it does in my head, and once the reasoning behind it…the why and who, etc….is accurately revealed, it’ll be lovely to you too when I describe it thoughtfully. You just wait.
But also, I have no real structure to anything I do. I like to plot and plan, but I don’t like to stick to any rigorous schedule. I’m the type of person that would tour a foreign country with a group, stray from the path, slay a few beasts, meet and marry someone who looks like Leo DiCaprio, and wind up living with magical elves in northern Wales…er… or somewhere, for eternity. Never returning home again.
Okay. Back on track. I read an article in March/April 2013 issue of Writer’s Digest called “Go Organic”, by Steven James. Steven James is supposed to be a best-selling author of many things, even some critically acclaimed things. But, I never heard of him, so I had to look him up. Yes, he’s done a lot. For shame, perhaps I should read one of his books.
Geeze, where was I? Oh, Steven James wrote an awesome article called “Go Organic.” Right. We established that. And, guess what? I have the same view points as he does. I write in the same fashion as he does…as far as mechanics goes. I don’t have a best seller, but we’ll see later. I also love that he quoted from one of my favorite books on writing. Yep, “On Writing” by Stephen King. James describes how he “loves Stephen King’s analogy…comparing stories to fossils that we, the story-tellers, are uncovering. To plot out a story is to decide beforehand what kind of dinosaur it is.” He quotes King, “Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort, and the dullard’s first choice.”
James goes on to say that the analogy helps him to think of his writing less as something he creates and more of something he uncovers. I like that. That’s how I feel too. Wouldn’t you know it? Me, Steven James, and Stephen King all think alike. Spooky!
With Someday Always Comes, I just wrote it. From start to finished. But each day, I’d go back and read the work from the day before; sometimes from several days before, but always striving for realism and fluidity. Continuity. I didn’t want my characters to say back on Tuesday that they were going somewhere on Sunday, then didn’t go. I didn’t want their personalities changing accidentally. The changes, if any, would be gradual and as a result of some event.
I don’t want to create some roadmap for every story and follow it to the tee. Then what happens when the muse slaps your marbles around and…wham!…story line change. But guess what? We have this outline…the story’s progressed by the outline. We can’t change it!
No, I’m not a fly-by-night writer. Okay, well sometimes I fly around at night. But that’s a whole other blog. I want my stories to have depth. I want strong, natural bridges and scene changes. I want my characters to make their own choices when backed into a corner, when being approached by Big Foot on a road less traveled, or while wondering what to do while staring into the eyes of their true love for the first time in ten years.
Whaat? Who the hell has time for pulling out maps in those situations! Really? When would anyone have time to pull out a map and ask directions while running across desert sands from a man-eating shark with legs while trying to find Amelia Earhart? I’ll tell you who are the only people who could pull that off…that whole…“Stop Mr. Landshark, I know not in which direction we goeth! Please, let me consult the Map of Sultan before we fall into quicksand or some other shit and lose our pants”… the Wayans Brothers. So, I’ll leave that dramatics and comedy in their capable hands.
So, I will remain organic. I am so glad someone invented that really cool term. And guess what all you English teachers of mine, give me an F if you must. But no more forced outline writing for me. How can I write spectacularly that way?
Steven James has a good opinion and idea in his Go Organic article regarding creativity:
“Forget all that rubbish you’ve heard about staying on track and not following rabbit trails. Of course you should follow them. It’s inherent to the creative process….What you first thought was just a rabbit trail leading nowhere in particular might take you to a breathtaking overlook that eclipses everything you previously had in mind.
Without serendipitous discoveries, your story runs the risk of feeling artificial and prepackaged. Give yourself the freedom to explore the terrain of your story…embrace the adventure.”
As I said, it’s a good article. Make sure you grab this copy of Writer’s Digest.
I did some snooping on the internet regarding organic writing. My view is that there are several organic writers out there and many described the roots of organic writing the same, yet they have their own way of going about it. A little bit of this, and a little bit of that. No junk.
I just can’t create any other way. Are you an organic writer too?