Saturday, September 02, 2006

Lost without a road map

Over her blog Miss Read has talking about Enid Blyton's writing methods. "Apparently, to start a book, she would sit in her study with her typewriter on her lap, eyes closed while she imagined the characters. When the main characters were in her head and interacting with each other, she would imagine the setting. Then armed with nothing else, she would start to write. At the end of the day, when she packed the typewriter away and was having dinner, she would have no idea what was going to be written the next day."

Miss Read goes on to discuss the fact she also likes writing without pre-plotting. I've got to say, I am so the other end of the scale on this. Watertight plot? Check. Character breakdowns done in advance? Check. Lengthy, detailed synopsis before I start writing a word of prose or script? Check. I like to think of this as the roadmap method. If I'm going on a journey, I like to know I've got a roadmap in the car. That's not the say I won't choose to take a less direct route, but if I get lost, I've got the roadmap to help me navigate to the chosen destination.

The same thing applies when I'm writing fiction. Doesn't matter if it's a novel, an audio drama, a comic strip, a radio play or a screenplay, I need to have done my preparation first. I've tried winging it and the resultant mess is too hideous for words. I frequently mumble about how fast I can write - between 4000 and 7000 words of fiction a day, if needs to be. But the physical act of typing is only one step in the journey, and I've gone a long way down the road first during prep. I can spend a year or longer thinking about a novel, researching and planning, musing and making notes. That's how I can bash out a first draft in three to four weeks. But if I didn't have my roadmap, I'd be lost in the woods and that ain't good.

1 comment:

Julio Angel Ortiz said...

If that works for people, great. For me, I can't imagine not having an outline done before writing anything.

Before I got real serious about writing, I used to just "wing it", having a vague idea in my head and just writing things out. But that proved fruitless. Now, I'm an outline freak- I won't do anything without creating one and breaking down scenes, characters, and themes.