Writing The Novel

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crimewriter
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Wed Apr 04, 2007 11:56 am Post

I'm late joing this thread, I know, but I just wanted to say:

If outlining works for you, fine. Personally I found that the one novel where I used Word's outlining feature to plan the story in detail from beginning to end was the only MS that was so bad I had to tear it up and start again from the beginning.

Why? Because outlines are no good for deciding the two most important ingredients in your novel: structure and point of view. (Not to mention voice -- which makes three.)

What works for me is to start with the Moleskine full of random notes, then the index cards and the large floor space (thank you, Scrivener, for the Corkboard and so much more), and then... hours and hours of thinking. What's the best way to tell this story, and in what order? Which of the characters would make the best narrators and how do they sound? Once I've answered those questions, I can start.

Then I live on cheese rolls for a few weeks until it's finished. Or until my nagging editor phones. Whichever comes sooner. :roll:

cw
Some quiet night when you've shirked your work because of fatigue or distraction, open a window of your house and listen. Do you hear that distant clicking sound? That's one of your competitors, pecking away at his keyboard in Paris or London or Erie, PA

An
AndreasE
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Mon May 07, 2007 9:01 am Post

I usually start with a basic idea of the novel I want to write - almost always an idea I have carried with me for years and years: It has accumulated a lot of secondary ideas over the time, has "grown" in my subconscious mind.

The basic approach is to have as much ideas as possible, emerging from that first basic one, and to drop 90% of them. The difficult part is, of course, to decide which ideas to keep... :)

But a novel is more than just a bunch of ideas glued together, a novel needs an overall structure as well. Sometimes I have an idea concerning the structure right from the beginning, sometimes I have to shuffle all the secondary ideas a lot to construct one.

A very basic structure is to know where I want to start and how all shall end, although sometimes the end comes up different from what I intended in the beginning. But having some end in mind helps to keep direction.

Another general structure one can almost always use is to think in four or three acts.

At a certain point one has to break down everything into scenes or, if necessary, some explaining text parts. A scene is something happening at a certain time and at a certain place, involving certain characters interacting and usually resulting in a change of the course of the story, while an explaining text - well - explains something that one does not want to show in scenes.

I use to work not with a complete outline of all and everything but rather with a "horizon of things becoming outlined", that means: At any given moment while writing, I have a raw idea about how the story might go in whole, I have a vague idea about the order of the next dozen scenes, a more precise idea about the next three scenes to come and a very detailed concept for the scene I am working on (normally written by hand and unreadable for anybody else than me :) ).

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ptram
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Tue May 08, 2007 12:11 pm Post

Andreas,

AndreasE wrote:A scene is something happening at a certain time and at a certain place


Considering that some of your novels cover thousand years and year-light of distance, I do understand your troubles with organizing time and space! :-)

Paolo

An
AndreasE
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Tue May 08, 2007 2:30 pm Post

ptram wrote:Andreas,

AndreasE wrote:A scene is something happening at a certain time and at a certain place


Considering that some of your novels cover thousand years and year-light of distance, I do understand your troubles with organizing time and space! :-)

Paolo


:lol:

In fact I have more trouble with organizing weeks and days than organizing milleniums. In my "Mars Project" series (a series for young readers, not available in Italy, I'm afraid) my editor almost always found weeks with 8 days or days with 30 hours or so...

I have a "Wishes I Might Utter One Day For Scrivener"-list, and there is indeed a note that maybe Scrivener could provide some computerized help for this problem - scheduling events. But I have still to think a lot to know exactly what I (or anybody might) want, and after all, being a Scrivener newbie, I feel I am not yet in the position to put something on the wish list. Not before I have some more experience, that is: not before having written at least one entire novel with it. End 2007, maybe.

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werebear
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Tue May 08, 2007 4:27 pm Post

Can't outline. Tried it. Drove me crazy. Because some of those outlines looked sooooooooo good on paper. But didn't work.

I have to develop a plot with what I call "organic structuring." I start with a compelling scene that wants to be written, but I have no idea where it will be in the novel. But that scene generates new ones, by asking myself; so what happens next? And what happened before that led to this?

This "scene spawning" technique really picks up speed when the scenes stop becoming random and connect themselves up.

And if you get off track, don't just wrench the train back onto the tracks, ask yourself why it tried to go in that direction.

My second novel gave me problems with the ending. My agent pointed out I had held back. And I had. I had grown so fond of the character, and the ending was so traumatic, I had backed off.

Thus called out, I went back in and tore the place apart. And it was a much better ending.
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An
AndreasE
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Wed May 09, 2007 8:27 am Post

werebear wrote:Can't outline. Tried it. Drove me crazy. Because some of those outlines looked sooooooooo good on paper. But didn't work.

I have to develop a plot with what I call "organic structuring." I start with a compelling scene that wants to be written, but I have no idea where it will be in the novel. But that scene generates new ones, by asking myself; so what happens next? And what happened before that led to this?


People are different. I've heard Diana Gabaldon works like this - not knowing for a long time what story she is telling (or "undigging") - and she is not too unsuccessful... :)

fi
fingers_mcginty
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Sun May 13, 2007 5:19 pm Post

Albertsen wrote:

"...I keep every section in a separate document, and each chapter in separate folder. Each section rarely exeeds 1,500 words, in fact most of them are about 500 words. ...The titles of the sections don't appear in the export so I use them to provide a one sentence summary...Because I have labeled each section and because I have provided each section with a meaningful title I can very quickly locate the document I'm looking for...."

I was thinking it might be very useful to see pictures of some of our Scrivener main windows, to show how we are (or are not) organizing our work. So with that in mind, I give you mine. I'm not happy with the organization right now and find that I need to incorporate some of the ideas presented by other users. Maybe yours is better? Let's show those pictures!
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Lord Lightning
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Mon May 14, 2007 1:21 pm Post

Hi AndreasE

You could always run TimeFlyer in parallel with Scrivener.

...maybe Scrivener could provide some computerized help for this problem - scheduling events.



Time Flyer is a timeline app. It is really simple to set up story timelines.

http://www.mupromo.com/

http://www.macupdate.com/screenshot.php?id=24157


Hope this helps

:)
Lord Lightning

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When I make a declarative statement it applies to ME. Not to everyone.

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Kingstonmike
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Fri Oct 16, 2015 7:49 pm Post

kirkmc wrote:I think it differs according to the type of story. Seasoned crime fiction authors can start without knowing the end, because the discovery of the end is part of the process. However, other types of fiction, in my opinion, require knowledge of at least the beginning and the end. I, too, need to know where I'm going.

Kirk


As a mystery writer I start off with A ending, which sometimes turns out not to be THE ending, as I often will have characters and situations present themselves in ways that I hadn't intended originally.

I tend to have a rough outline of the action to start off with, but I try not to be too anal about following it.
When I wrote my first NanoWriMo novel, I spent October writing up a series of 55 scene cards and notes on Scrivener, because I needed to have a good idea of what each scene was going to be and I couldn't afford dead ends on such a tight time-line.
Normally, though, I just go where the writing takes me, more or less.
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