Monday, October 30, 2006

Writing 006 -- Listener Letters

Well, I felt it was time, and here it is -- the first show devoted to listener letters. I address podcasting questions and writing questions alike. The strongest emphasis is on the matter of how I approach my novel: do I outline the story or develop it as I write?

Bear in mind that my approach to things reflects my personal style and it might not work for you. But the question came up enough in email and I thought it worthwhile to address in this show. At the very least, it will provide greater context for our future discussions.

My suggestion for this blog post -- answer this: how do you approach writing? Do you establish an outline in advance or do you simply write as you write? Do you write your story in sequence or do you move back and forth between different parts of your story?

I'd really like to see the various approaches.



Mr. Fixit said...

I just recently stumbled upon your podcast when I decided I'd be crazy enough to try NaNoWriMo.

All I can say to that is I love what you're doing with it.

Regarding your question, I mostly just shoot from the hip and write as I go. The first and only time I outlined was a few years ago, and while I found the end result to be satisfying, I felt almost trapped by the outline, and was afraid to veer too far from it for fear that my carefully constructed tale would fall apart.

I also experimented with writing out of sequence, and that was an unmitigated disaster.

I find that just sitting down and writing my story helps a great deal with not only plot and character development, but with spotting any actual or potential inconsistencies. But that's just me.


Tom Occhipinti said...

I wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo (modified, though I know that sorta upsets purists). But it didn't happen. That aside, I seriously need to get back into my novel. I've been dragging my feet for far too long.

Thanks for listening to the show. I'm going to do a special 6-part series soon. More word on that coming.


Zebby's Daddy said...

I enjoy the podcast and each quick tip you offer.

I am on the verge of finishing my one and only NaNo month. I learned a lot and was surprised at what turned out to be hard and what turned out to be easy. (My other NaNo thoughts are at

I can tell yo with confidence that it will take me much longer than a month to put this 50K words into some sort of coherent state.

I never initially outline and got in 10K words before I found myself wanting a bit more structure. I put together a brief outline with words and phrases only. It seemed to have helped.

Lastly, you mentioned you were a teacher in one of you shows. What subject? How long?

Tom Occhipinti said...

I've been teaching Literature and Writing in New York for 13+ years.

Geez, has it been that long? Wow.

Zebby's Daddy said...

I have been teaching lit/writing/speech/journalism for about 8 years. Oh, how time flies...

I have little more than a few journalistic publishing credits from working for a newspaper in college but look forward to my first fiction sale.

sripley said...

As a matter of gathering consensus, I will say that I oppose outlining in principle because it sorta sucks the life out of the writing you're doing.

However, I've written two books of a three-book story and I had to resort to outlines because the plot was too intricate to just go with my gut.

I didn't want characters withholding information just because it helped my plot, or having them make dumb decisions because that gets them into the haunted house (just a metaphor, I assure you). By outlining, I was able to put down a plot wherein all characters make the best decision they can with the information they have, and it all still falls apart.


Linda said...

I start with many miles of woolgathering. Yep, driving is my driving force. But what with global warming, I'm on a tight gasoline budget.


After the characters start to solidify (not a word is written down anywhere at this time), I start to make lists of things I'd like to put them through as well as moments of reward for them.

Then, ya got to put some order to it. Some genres are easy to order. Straight human drama is AWFULLY hard to order, but ya gotta try. Sometimes, you have to try, try again. Be prepared for surprises--but be aware than some of those surprises are writer's block in disguise.

So, I kind of outline.

Love the podcast. I'm trying to get my daughter to enable HER daughter's computer to pick up your cast and to access your site. Kid is almost thirteen, and smart. I think you'll be a good teacher for her, and a welcome kick for me.

Texas Granny