Wednesday, June 20, 2012
SOMETIMES I JUST CAN'T WRITE LINEAR
(This is from a newsletter article i wrote for the DARA June 2012 issue. I've been crazy busy with the day job so I thought I'd share this with you instead of trying to rush through a quickie drive-by blog post.)
I've discovered something about the writing process with my latest work in progress I didn't know before. Sometimes I just can't write linear. Linear always worked well for me in the past—I'd outline my story, know exactly where I needed to go and how I needed to get there. Start at the beginning and move forward, chapter by chapter. There'd be a beginning, a middle, a big black moment and the end. Nice and straight-forward, right?
Not with my latest story. First, I had a dream. Not unusual, I dream all the time. But this was a bit different, it told a story. Not a big story, more like a long scene, but it was so complete and so vivid I wrote it down and sent it to one of my critique partners, thinking in the back of my mind it might work for a short magazine story or something along those lines. She loved it.
Yet something was missing. I felt I needed to tell the reader what led up to this momentous scene. Whoa, wait a minute, that meant the big scene I'd written was actually the end of the story. That's not how I write. I'm supposed to write the beginning, then the middle and then the end. How in the world do I make it work going in the opposite direction?
So, I thought about it. What brought my characters to this place in the story? They had their goal, motivation and conflict all handled nicely in the big scene I'd already written, tied up with a bow and finished—now I needed to backtrack and tell the reader the events that brought us to this place.
So I started with backstory—no not what you're thinking—I outlined a bit of backstory to flesh out the characters more fully, give them more depth, a reason they needed the big scene to happen (since I'd already written this great ending). Once I realized why the characters needed the resolution I'd given them I was able to go back and write chapters from the perspective of the various players in my drama, weaving them together from character to character, chapter by chapter, even out of order, and fit them together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
If you're like me, you do the outside pieces of the puzzle first, creating the frame to fill in. It's the same with story-telling. In this instance the outside, the framework, just happened to be the end first, and filling in and completing the picture came afterwards, piece by piece, until I had the whole.
The process of writing is a growing and evolving one with each person developing and honing the skill-sets that work for them. Plotters, pantsers, linear writers or puzzler fitters, find what works for you and the story you're telling. Like I said, sometimes I can't write linear. Sometimes I can. Find what works for you and do what you do best—WRITE.