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05 March 2014 @ 02:38 pm
evolving process  

Following up somewhat on last week’s process post…

Recently on Twitter Tobias Buckell mentioned he was 6K into a 10K synopsis for a 55K book. Kate Elliott chimed in to say that in December, she’d managed 4K a day for 2 weeks straight–far above her usual writing average–due to having a supremely clear idea of what had to happen in the book at that point.

I myself have become increasingly aware that the more I outline, the more smoothly the book goes. Particular cases in point were THE PRETENDER’S CROWN, which, as part of a series I’d been planning for years, had a leg up anyway, but was doubled down on due to breaking (or murderously spraining) a finger at the same time I was supposed to start writing it, and ending up with 6 weeks to think about it while I couldn’t type, and STONE’S THROE, a 60K book for which I had about 3000 words of synopsis.

I’m obviously not working at Toby’s level yet, but I’m kind of eyeing it covetously. I’ve just written a synopsis for another short book, and at about 3K am relatively satisfied with its level of detail, but if the proposal is agently-approved, I’m thinking I may want to double the outline’s length before plunging into writing the book.

I have another project in the works for a *big* book, and at this point I’m guessing a useful synopsis for it is going to run at least 10-15K, and possibly twice that. That’s a hell of a lot of prepatory writing. OTOH, my husband is inclined to feel that in-depth outlining like that should count toward my overall yearly wordcount, so that takes some of the pain away. :)

It’s pretty strange finding myself inclined to increasingly detailed synopses. I remember quite clearly when I felt that outlining would remove all the magic and mystery from writing (which, when I said that to Toby and Kate, was met with rueful agreement), but what I’m finding is that it’s removing a lot of the frustration and delays instead. I write pretty fast anyway, given the blocks of time to do it in; it could be interesting to see how fast I can write if I’ve got a super, super detailed map to follow.

Of course, it’ll be equally interesting to determine whether the amount of time put into a detailed synopsis is worth it. I’m going to have to keep track of that, but fortunately that shouldn’t be too hard. I write an average of 1K an hour when writing fiction, so basically if I end up able to knock a 100K book out in 70 or 80 hours, the time synopsising is worth it (and if I could cut it to 60 hours it would be WAY worth it).

So I’m going to have to see how much time I spend on a synopsis I’m guessing…8-10 hours of actual writing time, at this point? Really not sure. I *do* know that hands down the fastest way for me to write one is to sit down in a chat room with somebody else in it and just talk it out. I don’t even need response, I just need to feel like I’m telling somebody kind of what happens. It removes the formality of the process for me and makes it much, *much* easier. Then I can take that really rough shape, start refining it, and–as I’ve been doing lately–then turn it over to my brainstorming filter, where people tend to make glorious, outrageous suggestions that lead me in directions I might never have thought of on my own.

And that’s *another* major change in my process, actually. I’ve been hitting the brainstorming filter pretty heavily lately. I’ve always bounced a lot of ideas off Ted, and still do, but–for example–one of the projects I’m working on is in a genre he doesn’t read, so it’s not his strong suit for plot development. So I’m going out to a larger group to get feedback and responses and thoughts at the very initial development levels, which is fascinating and fun and proving surprisingly (to me, anyway) helpful.

I believe that the point of all this is not only is there not One True Way to write, but in fact, there’s not even One True Way for any given writer throughout their career. :)

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on March 5th, 2014 03:44 pm (UTC)
I didn't outline in the beginning. Then for my 2nd book, the storyline came to me as I was driving to work and I literally wrote a 7 page outline that morning (don't tell my boss--oh, wait, that's me). Book three got a 21 page detailed outline plus character studies and I don't think it is an accident that that's the one that got me my agent (although it has yet to sell) and wrote faster than anything before or since.

These days I am a dedicated outliner, although the length and depth varies from book to book. One of the things I love the most is that having an outline means I rarely get "stuck." Although when I do, brainstorming with other authors has saved my bacon more than once.

What fascinates me, I guess, is not so much that the process is so different for every author, but that it is also different for every book I write--what works for one, doesn't necessarily work for another. Yeesh...what a way to make a living :-)
Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on March 5th, 2014 05:28 pm (UTC)
I suspect that's very true. I need to learn to do this. The problem is, I can't plot...
(Deleted comment)
Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on March 5th, 2014 07:22 pm (UTC)
It makes perfect sense, because that's what I do, too. I have a sense of shape ahead, rather than what happens. Which is incredibly frustrating sometimes, because I feel like I'm working in a fog.
kitmizkit on March 5th, 2014 08:16 pm (UTC)
Wow. That's so different from what I do that I can barely wrap my head around it. It's amazing writers can even communicate with each other about process!
Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on March 6th, 2014 10:11 am (UTC)
Chaz B and I once did a panel together on process, and sat there going, 'but how can you do *that*? How can you even explain to someone how that works?' Other writers' processes fascinate me, because of that huge difference there can be.
irishkateirishkate on March 5th, 2014 09:03 pm (UTC)
I love reading these...
Carlton Max: baz goatc_maxx on March 7th, 2014 09:13 pm (UTC)
I reckon both planning and brainstorming are valuable... tho so far am little beyond the flash inspiration level myself.