Writer’s Log: 2751

A wing and a pear

I used to be able to wing it. When I wrote long narrative, I could keep the story and its direction in my mind and maintain my writing pace. Even having to pause and return days or weeks later, I could recall the plot and, within a few minutes, jump back in and get writing again.

Not anymore.

Well, this sucks, I keep thinking, as I fail to immerse myself into my latest efforts. This won’t do at all. With my desire to continue to write long narrative I’ll have to find another way. I’d love to get back to the dozen novels I’ve started, half of which still retain some merit—as far as the story, characters and theme go. Yet, how can I proceed if I can’t remember a damn thing about them anymore?

This is not to say that I haven’t intentionally plotted out previous stories. For my second book, I drew out arcs of action and general plot as the story had become complex enough to warrant some intelligent design. So, I’ll say I do have some experience regarding the creation of such a plan.

Not to mention the fact that I’ve designed, documented and constructed hundreds of complex software projects… Pretty hard to code seat-of-the-pants style and produce anything folks would pay for.

Yet, I can’t bring myself to become a full Plotter. Where’s the fun in that? Sure, software requires exquisitely detailed design documents to ensure you’re not building down a blind alley. But tech-spec’ing a story? Fuck that.

I recall a fellow writer who swore by the snowflake method. Blech! I’m not designing some computer game, encircling the wagon train, drawing tighter and tighter circles of detail until, voila’, at the end you have a completed novel. That sounds like work to me. If I’m not writing for money — and who can these days? — why would I burden myself with a writing style that feels like labor, like torture?


Now, what was I getting at (flips back to the beginning)… Oh yeah, a compromise.


The Next Mountain writing style

“Let’s get over this mountain, down through the valley, and up the next one. After that, we’ll see what we see and plan our future steps accordingly.”

If I can finagle out the next chapter or two, rough them in with broad strokes only, then maybe I can keep my wits but not build an inescapable cage. That’s the thought, anyway. Draw some boundaries, but not full guardrails.

There’s an added benefit here, as well. I’ve mentioned in the past that I like to dream-design, load my mind with a problem or a projected scenario and let my semi-conscious take a stab at solving, or at least extending the proposed path. Falling asleep with my current story in mind is a great way to entertain myself. “What should Carmen do with the freakish Geiger counter? Where did that harpy stash Borson’s stolen pocket watch? The river is too swift and wide, what will Tris and Doolie have to abandon to get across?”

I don’t get perfect inspiration, but shaking up the puzzle box does often result in random linkages that make sense and serve as fodder for development.

Of course, ultimately, the story’s full arc needs some purposeful approach. The end-run most likely needs to have been considered, else we’re just wandering from sand dune to sand dune, never finding the creek or the cliff. Knowing the landing zone, as broad and amorphous as it might be, helps the story maintain an intelligible trail.

So, for now, until my faculties can’t even get me through the next paragraph or three, I’ll attempt to sketch just far enough into the story’s future to keep me focused but not constrained.


Do you have techniques to keep you focused on your stories and the cogent direction you wish to take them?