A while back, I had the pleasure of hearing bestelling author Andre Dubus~The House of Sand and Fog~speak about freestyle writing. Many of you know I'm a huge believer in outlining but Andre had some excellent points. Andre is the opposite from me. He believes you must not limit yourself, the story must flow freely from you or else you may end up ruining it. In his eyes the process seemed like a wonderful, almost mystical sort of journey that the writer takes, not knowing where the road may lead, if or when it will ever end. I imagine this was how War and Peace was written. *clears throat* He quoted a few outstanding authors who write this way, most of them in the literary genre.
Andre said to write what you don't know you know. That was an interesting twist that I'd never heard before! It intrigued me. He went on to describe how a writer who uses this style was sitting in a room staring at a blank wall, trying to describe the wall. Eventually the writer moved on to the ceiling, then to the outside of the house, then to a couple walking down the street. What he ended up writing was Rag Time.
Freestyling does come with a few drawbacks that Andre pointed out. It took him four years to write The House of Sand and Fog. My jaw metaphorically hit the floor when he said that. One's first book often takes a lot longer~several years even~to write, but that was not Andre's first book. A book can also take a bit longer to write if you have a lot of research to do but freestylers aren't often big researchers.
I can write a book that I'm absolutely in love with and feel very strongly is a good, solid book in six months, sometimes less, but a year tops. With my first book I did not outline and it took me a lot longer because I kept screwing up by not knowing where the story or character is going.
Andre also said he's been late on his deadlines, several times. Late by years, not months. That made me cringe. Sure if your book has been selected by Oprah and you've hit the bestseller list many times, you're publisher might not mind too much. But I can guarantee they don't like it. And from an up an coming or debut author, they simply wouldn't accept such practice.
I truly beleive outlining is part of the creative process, rather than against the creative process. So has Andre convinced me? No, but like I said, he had some interesting points. Perhaps freestyling is a literary thing ;-)
Tell me, which side do you stand on, freestyling or outlining?
Heather, I remember that talk. My mouth dropped open when he spoke of missing his deadlines. I still suspect those free-stylers know and have a plan in mind. They may not make it formal.ReplyDelete
I know authors who write extensive outlines. Perhaps it's language. My first draft would be this author's outline.
For me... outlining is the best. But it is an outline with the ability to be flexible.
Next week, I will share "how" I outline. It works, and enables flexibility.
Thanks for a great post on an important subject.
You know me. You'd have to pry my outline from my cold dead fingers. I've also recently discovered the joy of Plot Q&As. Where one plot question leads to the next and so on. Loving it. It works for character arcs too!ReplyDelete
LOL! We're so much alike in that way. This Plot Q&A's sounds interesting...Delete
Yep, that's the beauty of writing, we're all different. I'm looking forward to your post on how you outline!ReplyDelete
I have never outlined. I can write a book in a few weeks, a month at tops. It's the editing and revising that pile of vomit into something half decent that takes years! lol! I love the way a freestyle first draft reads, it's exciting, it's free! I've beta read (a few) drafts now and I can tell who outlines. Their stories feel forced and I know exactly what will happen. Not that it's a bad thing, and editing will clear that up if the writer breaks from their outline in a rewrite, but a freestyle story always surprises me and makes me sit up and say, "what the heck?" The trick is to edit them so that the "what the heck" turns into, "Of course, how could I not see that coming?!!"ReplyDelete
My point, and I kinda have one- it's not how you write, it's how you rewrite that changes the story.
This was a great post!
Ah yes, I hear that from a lot of pantsers, that editing is kind of a nightmare. And I totally understand, I used to be the same way until a mentor forced me to write an outline on a story I had already finished and I realized how much I had screwed up and how an outline could help me see that before I wrote it. Now editing is my happy place. :)Delete
I'm an in-betweener. I'm not freeflowing enough to feel comfortable without any idea of where the story's headed, so I really need to know the main characters and something of what they're up against before I start writing, and I like to know both the likely climax and the ending, too. But a full outline? Kills me dead every time! Takes the spontaneity right out of it. I agree with Tanya, though, that whichever way you do it, it's how you rewrite that defines the story.ReplyDelete
That sounds like a great way to write Linda, love it! The best of both worlds.Delete
I used to be a complete pantser, but I'm changing. I'd say I'm a lot like Linda Gray now--an in-betweener. For my current WIP, I wrote a synopsis,(or tried) and then before I write a new scene, I jot down thoughts etc, so I've evolved. But things definitely change a bit as I go and I like to have that freedom in writing. :)ReplyDelete
I started that way too. Now I like to write an outline but keep it loose and fluid so that it can change as the story does if my characters take me a different direction.Delete