Thursday, January 29, 2009

Do I Know What's Going to Happen?

Whenever I tell people that I'm a writer, one of the things they want to know is: do I know what's going to happen in my books as I'm writing them?  

I think it's an excellent question, but I wonder why so many people think to ask it. It may be because Stephen King said some place some time that he doesn't. Doesn't know. Doesn't outline. (Can someone confirm that?) So perhaps it's a little mojo test when they ask me. 

Test or not, I always tell people when they ask the outline question: No. No, I like to be surprised. I should outline, but I don't. I can't. No, really. I couldn't possibly.

Except that this week, I'm outlining my WIP.  What I'm hoping is this: If I have all the sequencing stuff that drives me crazy out of the way,  I can go wild with the language and the other juicy stuff.  It'll be like the poetry forms I've been playing with lately, sonnets and sestinas. You have the end rhymes or words, you have the patterns, and then you take advantage of that structural safety net to be daring in your content.

If that doesn't work, I'm back to banging words together and seeing what happens. 


  1. Gah! Are you my secret twin??? I've had SO MUCH TROUBLE with my current WIP I've actually roughed out the end of it fully in outline!!! I usually cannot do it, but it's driven me so mad, I actually went there. Wow. Hope it works for both of us!!

  2. I think process -- for writers and illustrators -- is fascinating. Obviously, or I wouldn't be inviting them to the 7-Imp salon to discuss it all the time. I would think that one would not be "superior" to the other, that they would both have their advantages. Keep us updated, if you're so inclined, and let us know how it goes.

  3. I think also because there's such a variety of answers.

    Jasper Fforde said, when he read at Politics and Prose a few years ago, that just writes by the seat of his pants and has no idea what's going to happen next.

    JK Rowling often talks about her boxes and boxes of outlines and background info.

    Process is fascinating, because everyone's is so different.

  4. My brother was just asking me about this other day - and I think it's kind of hard to get until you're in it. I usually know what direction I'm headed in, but I live for the stuff that happens in between the planned events.

  5. Sometimes when I outline, I start getting cranky with the outline, like it's trying to boss me around or something. It makes no sense, but there you go.

  6. I call it working with or without a map.

    Sometimes I know where I'm going and how I will get there.

    Sometimes I have 3/4 of my story done, but just need to find that big finish. I will sometimes find that big finish organically (while writing). After all, its just space on a computer screen or even paper.

    Sometimes I write for the sake of emptying my head and am surprised that I have a pretty good story. And then I just have to clean it up and edit.

    I don't usually work without a map. It takes more time in front of the computer. I love to focus on what I'm ultimately trying to say, whether it be an image or an event, in my head. Then I build around this.

    I hate the organizational part of the writing process - it certainly wasn't THIS chore that led me to writing - but am much happier when it's done.

  7. i need to have a guide, no matter how blurry. or else i freak out. haha! i'm too much of a control freak to let go like that. but it doesn't mean i dont' stray from the lines...i just need them to start down the path...


R-E-S-P-E-C-T (or you will be deleted)

You can receive followup comments to this conversation by checking the "notify me" box below the comment window.