On previous projects, I’ve simply sat down and wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more. I did them National Novel Writing Month style (regardless of what time of year it was). I would start with a general idea of what I wanted to write about and a vague idea of how it would end, and then sit down and see where the characters took me.
I do feel that this is a valid approach to tackling a story. It is definitely a fun approach. The characters do have a way of telling the author where they want to go and the whole process involves a great deal of immersion and passion and surprise. Sometimes, however, life simply doesn’t allow for that type of writing experience.
That is where I find myself these days. I want very much to write my novel and am trying to make time for it whenever I can, but I am truly stretched, both personally and professionally, at the moment. No matter how much I might want to change the fact, the day only has twenty-four hours and other things simply have to take precedence. Therefore, I have had to change my approach this time around.
I did go into this project with a general idea of where I wanted the story to go and I’ve written a few chapters, but because my time is so limited, I didn’t have that immersion into the characters and story that I have had before. I worked on the story in my mind while doing other things, but I didn’t have the chance to immediately commit those ideas to paper. I began to worry that I would lose the ideas. I became a woman in need of an outline.
Technically, I suppose what I ended up writing was more of a synopsis. Unlike a clean outline format one might use for a non-fiction project, I instead sat down to write a summary of the story. Where did I want this story to go? What would happen to the characters? How would the story lines connect? As I worked through this, I was forced to solve story problems, much like I would if I was actually writing the novel itself. I would close my eyes and visualize what might happen and try different scenarios. The characters still surprised me a few times! How their lives ended up developing was not exactly what I had in mind when I started put pen to paper, but I am pleased with the results.
Even better, I’m pleased that I have the whole story out of my brain and down on paper. The bones of the novel are there. Now I can work on the chapters whenever I have the time and flesh out the details. There may still be some surprises along the way, but I feel confident in the story and that this novel will get done, even if it takes longer than I might want.
What about you? How do you approach your writing projects? Do you dive right in and see where the story goes, or do you write an outline or synopsis first in order to have a blueprint to work from?