Certified Unorganic Writer…and okay with that.

I’ve been plugging away at the novel like a good little girl.  But I’ve been thinking a lot about methodology as well.

Seems as though there are writers from two different schools of approach:  the Organic and the Outliners.

To me, Organic writers are the ones that sit down with a little tiny pearl seed of special, throw it down on the paper, add water (or coffee), and follow its tendrils of story to the end as more of a delighted first reader than as a creator.  It sounds absolutely magical.

Now, I have been fortunate enough to be blessed with these kinds of stories.  I love it when it happens.  It’s almost like getting caught in a dust devil unexpectedly.  It takes your breath away.  When you look up from your keyboard, it’s like getting dropped off in front of your house after an unexpected adventure with friends.  You’re a little disoriented and a lot happy.

I must confess, however, that I’ve always had a sort of stereotype about folks who write from outline…even though I am one of them.  I can see myself with thick, black government-issued eyeglasses, carefully constructing my story structure out of building blocks; characters, metaphors, situations, themes, et cetera.  Once I’ve got the darn thing erected, then I push my glasses up my nose with my index finger and begin to fill in the skeleton with word-flesh, moving from the first section, to the second section, and so on.  Very methodical, very scientific.

I’m not sure where this idea of mine came from.  Perhaps it’s from those organic experiences where I felt whisked away, my hair whipping in the wind.  Perhaps it’s simply from the stereotype that many people have regarding the writer as the artist.

I was having some problems with the beginning of the book.  When I say, “some problems,” I mean, the beginning wasn’t happening.  Even when I decided to force it — which felt like forcing a piece of delicate electronic equipment only to hear the plastic gears crack — the beginning lay like two-day-old dead trout wrapped in even older newspaper.  No bueno.

So I decided to return to the basics, which means pen and paper.  Old school.  Ink and fiber.

This is what I discovered:  Organic definitely exists in Outlining.

I sat down and made a list of what I knew about the story and what seemed to be tripping me up.  The trip-up list is what helped me.  I listed four story-specific items, questions that I needed to answer.

It was the first one that helped the most.  “What is the conflict that your protagonist is facing right now at the beginning of this story?”

My problem was my protagonist, who is on vacation with her husband, doesn’t have any conflict right away.  The “inciting incident” wasn’t scheduled until later on in the afternoon.  Boring.  They just seemed too perfect, too happy.  The beginning scene was boring to write.

But after I dug around, I got her husband to piss her off right off the bat, which opened up my eyes to a lot of her insecurities.  And then I found myself looking at an open can of serious character development worms, which I spent many happy hours chasing down and rounding up.

The great thing about it was, once I solved that initial issue and started setting down sequential scenes I wanted to see included, things started falling from outer space right into place on the page.  I found myself going, “Perfect!  That’s exactly what happens.  Because if she doesn’t know about this, then this will happen this way and that will just screw everything up for her…poor girl!”

In other words, ideas began to flutter in from the ether, fitting into the story in ways I had not previously planned or imagined yet.  That’s when I discovered the process between the Organic writer and the Outlining writer is not so different.  It’s just where in the order of things we practice our, um, organic-ness.

It was a good trip for me to take, a good reminder that it’s really not important how we writers approach our craft.  We just need to remember that a trip is a trip, and we should simply enjoy it while it lasts instead of scrutinizing it to see if it’s like anything another writer experiences.

At least, that’s what I decided when I got dropped off in front of the house, disoriented and happy. <g>



This is what the side of my Arm & Hammer Baking Soda box says.  How do I know this?  Well, one of the lovely surprises that my advancing pregnancy has brought me is some raging heartburn.  Man, I thought I was in the clear, having reached my seventh month eating all kinds of spicy numminess with seemingly no consequences.  Now, we’re in the world of long, burning burps.  Oh, my!

I have a friend whose favorite thing to do — his words, not mine — is to eat as much as he possibly can, then go straight to bed, no passing “Go.”  So this is his realm.  He understands the world of heartburn.  He recommended making what he calls a “baking soda shot.”  Dissolve a little in some water, down it, burp twice, and you’re good.

Fortunately, the box has more specific instructions.  I’m just a little concerned about the “serious injury” part.  It sounds volatile, explosive almost.  Should I be worried?  Maybe my stomach will pop.  Or my husband will get blown out of bed.  That might be worth the look on his face.  <g>

Apart from heartburn, I’ve had a really lovely day.  I’ve basically ignored a pending work assignment in favor of writing.  Yesterday, I had such a hard time with the book.  It was like trying to catch a shaved, greased guinea pig in the bathtub with the lights off.  Only worse.  I decided to give up and try to work it out longhand instead of persisting in pushing out constipated, wooden words.  It helped.  It gave me an inkling of what I needed to pursue.

Then today, I headed over to Starbucks, music list at the ready, headphones clamped firmly over ears, determined not to leave until I figured out what the *&^@ing problem was.  3,800 words it took me.  But I’ve got it figured out.  I’ve got my compass reset.  My needle is pointing north again.  I feel absolutely triumphant!  I was afraid I was trapped in the NaNoWriMo Triangle, doomed to sail featureless seas of unproductive, unexciting prose.  Now I spy sunlight on the horizon, at the edge of the storm.  My sails are trimmed, the wind is picking up….whee!

Can you tell I had a good writing day today?  Yay!

December is my new NaNoWriMo!

Well, the God Murphy swooped in and smote me with lightning bolts right before the Thanksgiving holiday dashing any chances I had of making my 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo.  Now, I’m not blaming it all on Mr. Murphy.  I understand had I spent my time better, I would have been able to withstand his heartless blow.  So I take full responsibility for that.  But as it stands, I had a pretty good excuse, as far as excuses go.  An expedited work project landed on my desk at the last minute, something that I’m still working on trying to finish a week and a half later.  (The bane of court reporters is trials that you reported two years ago and can barely remember can be ordered up by the Court of Appeals on an expedited basis when you least expect it.  Blech.)

But I am undeterred.  Who says it’s gotta be done in November, gosh darn it?!  I have decided to seize authority and move NaNoWriMo to December.  (But for everyone who completed it in November, CONGRATULATIONS!  YOU GUYS ROCK!!)

My goal for this month will be to finish my 50,000 words by Christmas.  I would like to have a rough draft ready for my husband to read so he can see I’m not just going to Starbucks every day to sip chai tea lattes and listen to jaunty tunes.  I actually do write.

So I will start posting word counts starting tomorrow.  I swear!  I’m this close to being done with this crazy appeal transcript.  <snort>  And I will try my best to post daily on this blog.  I hate to disappoint my legions of fans. <lol>  I kill me.