Friday, May 25, 2012

Discovery Writing

I had a conversation recently with my hubby about a scene I was writing. This scene was composed entirely of dialog between my main character and someone else. There were no dialog tags. I actually didn't know who was talking to her. That's right, I didn't know...and I was writing it...yes. Does that make me schizophrenic? Maybe. It was definitely odd, though. I kept thinking, "Who in the world is this? Who is talking?" It was driving me nuts (aside from the me being nuts thing). The problem occurred when I tried to skip ahead in the story and write a scene, or section really, that I had been thinking about for a while. I was really excited about it and I really wanted to get to it, but my characters were taking their sweet time about moving through the part I was currently writing. The part that was supposed to be the first quarter to third of the book is now sitting at 90,000 words. Yup. They just had other things to do than go where I wanted them to, when I wanted them to. That may sound strange, but it's true. The characters really did have a life of their own.

That's not to say that they took me away from my outline...ha! Outline? No. I don't really have much of one. Or, more specifically, it's so broad that they could do a lot of things that are different but still fit into the outline. Honestly, my outline sounds something like "First they're here, then they go here, then they travel to here. On the way this and this happens. Other stuff happens at this place, then they go here and then here and learn this. Then, on the way to here, this happens. They end up here and then this happens. Then they save the world." There are some deaths scattered here and there, but that's pretty much it. (vague enough for you?) Perhaps I should have put a spoiler alert on the saving the world bit? Other than filling in actual names and places and specific actions for the 'theres' and 'thiss' that is pretty much the outline. Which, if you don't know writing terms, makes me pretty much on the far side of the spectrum when it comes to discovery writing (the opposite side is outline writing). I didn't have any outline until about 19,000 words in and then that's what I've been working off of ever since.

That doesn't mean that I don't know where the story is going, I just don't know how it's getting there. When I started writing I knew a scene in the story nearer to the beginning (22,000 words in at the moment) and the ending. I had a vague idea of theme. That was about it. I had a main character and I kinda just developed the world around her. I kept adding other characters who continually surprise me. They show up and talk sweet and make me fall in love with them. Then they hang around for way longer than I think they will. One of my characters started talking about his younger siblings and I remember thinking, "Wow. I didn't know he had any siblings." Yes. That thought. I did actually think it. Yes. And almost immediately after that I thought, "Well, of course he does." That's kinda how my writing day goes. It's fun. It's crazy. I'm probably crazy, but at least I'm having fun!

This discovery writing thing is definitely messing with my goals. I hoped that by the end of April I would have 100,000 words and be done with my novel. Knowing that I tend to go over a tad (well, okay, a lot) in every single writing assignment I've ever done, I then hoped that I would be finished after May with somewhere around 120,000 words. That was my plan anyway. It seemed feasible. Well, I'm a little behind (~94,000 words - which I've had most of by the end of April) May has been really bad for writing. And I'm not really near the end of the story yet. At least, I don't think I am. I'm going to set a new goal of being finished with it by the end of August. I've been thinking of doing Camp NaNoWriMo in June or August, just to give me some extra accountability. We'll see. Anyway, for those of you eagerly anticipating my story to be finished...well...It's coming along. I'm still enjoying it. That's about all I know. I have several things to do at the location they're at now. I have a couple other places for them to be. And then the ending stuff that's as concrete in my head as anything ever gets. Hopefully that part will go quickly. I can't promise anything though...just that I'll keep going until I get to the end. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens as much (or maybe more so) than you! :)

Call Box

I wrote my first ever flash fiction today. It was fun. And hard. My writing is in no way considered short, by any stretch of the imagination, so it was fun to challenge myself with a story of 350 words or less. Before this prompt, I didn't think it was remotely possible. How could I write a story that had only 350 words? What would that even look like. I don't think I even have scenes that short! I think flash fiction can be up to 500 words, but not for this contest. Anyway, if you're interested in reading it, the following link with take you to the contest page:

Actually, I suppose I could just put it on here... Okay, so if you want to check out the contest page follow the above link. If you just want to read my 347 word flash fiction? Well, I'll copy and paste it right here! Enjoy! :)

EDIT: The word prompts were Static and Dream and the picture I chose is:

I raced to the call box. Which number was it? Why couldn’t they be labeled? As far as this reality went, I needed out. It had started as such a dream, but now it was a nightmare. I needed time to think. The beast was growing and changing so fast. I heard the claws scrabble against the cobbles a few streets away, echoing through the alleys.

If I pressed the wrong button, I could end up anywhere. Sure, the garden behind the wrought iron fence looked innocent enough, but anyone could see that it was completely static – no breeze, no nothing. As soon as I made a commitment I had to either go there or stay here. Staying here wasn’t an option. The beast slammed into some trash cans. It must be having difficulty navigating the cobbles. Good.

I wracked my brain. Three was that deserted island, right? I think I’d figured out how to make that raft now. Wait. No. That was only three if I was coming from the moon colony. From here it was – Oh, I can’t remember! The crash of trash cans and a yowl from a cat told me that I had better figure it out right now.

The gate opened. Marjorie. Her eyes grew big and her mouth dropped open. “Gavin? Finally. You’re here!” Her smile was like the sun.

“I have to leave.”

“No. Not again.”

“I’m going to be eaten alive.”

“Where to?”

“I don’t know.”

“You just don’t want to tell me.”

“No, I can’t remember which number goes where.”

She laughed. “Does it really matter?”

“I guess not, as long as it’s not the alligators or the bats. I’m not even sure I can get to either of those from here.”

“Feed the alligators those squatty birds. They’re dumb as rocks.”

“Thanks.” My fingertips brushed her cheek.

“Try to stay put for more than 24 hours next time.”

“I do try.” We both turned when the beast howled as it rounded the corner. “Come on, lucky number four.” I pressed the button and walked through the gate.