These kind words were sent to me by an editing client who wrote the first draft of her first novel by the seat of her pants. She had an awesome idea, wanted to write a book, sat down, and did it. And it is a really cool concept that I look forward to helping her promote once it’s completed. As much as I admire and respect her ability to just go for it without any prior experience, courses taken, or even reading a “how-to” book on writing a novel – this approach did create many challenges: the main one being the amount of loose ends and a lack of a tight, cohesive story where everything has a purpose within the plot. There were other issues, too – but for the purposes of this blog post, I wanted to focus the attention on plot creation.
My client enjoyed writing stream of consciousness and was a little leery at my suggestion of creating an outline for a more structured story. But, I assured her that she didn’t have to choose between writing extraneously versus structured.
“I think as you fine tune your writing skills, you'll be able to utilize your impulse writing with your initial ideas and notes, with a more structured approach to creating the actual manuscript. It's sort of like the difference between planning a trip and just getting in the car and going. Of course, if you decide to just get in and go, it's probably helpful to at least have money and a map.”
Instead of choosing one technique over the other, she could combine the two. How so? By simply beginning her writing projects stream of consciousness. All initial ideas can be written down as they come. No rhyme or reason, just off-shoots of each other. Then, once a specific idea has been chosen, that’s when the gears can be switched to a more structured approach. The idea being that you are constantly going back and forth between these techniques of stream of consciousness for ideas and then structure for bringing those ideas to life within a story.
Here’s a great article by David Carr from The Book Designer website that I recommend for assistance on how to create a story outline. And don’t worry…there are no Roman Numerals involved.
Do you write stream of consciousness, structured, or a combination of the two?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.