Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Two Cents


Hi, it’s Leann Harris. Let me chime in with this “how I write” topic. I teach a writing course at the local community college. One class I teach is finding your own method of writing.

I am a plotter or as I like to call it in my class a linear writer. I write the first three chapters, get to know my characters, then write the synopsis. I stay very close to that synopsis. I have a friend who I critiqued with. She would never bring chapters, which drove me crazy. The way she explained it to me is she saw her book as a big picture. As she wrote, it wasn’t in order. She might write a scene in the middle of the book, then the opening scene, then a scene close to the end of the book. And she wrote everything in one file.

When she told me this, I thought she was crazy. Oh dear, how could anyone write that way? I was telling another friend this and she smiled at me and said she wrote that way, too. No, no, that can’t be. How can you write that way?

I thought they were both nuts, but the more people I talked to, I found the world of writers divided into plotters and big picture people. Once I discovered that truth, a lot of things made sense to me. Ever go to a workshop where someone is describing how they do something (place whatever you can think of) and you scratch your head and say “Huh?” Maybe that writer is a big picture writer and you’re a linear writer.

I was feeling pretty good about understanding the world of writing when I ran into a very ugly problem. I was writing a contracted book. I was closing in on the black moment and I was 100 pages short. After a few hours of panic, I realized I wrote one of the ending scenes early. I had to fill in to that pivotal point. Oh, I hated that. Of course the heroine had amnesia and I was stuck trying to find ways to fill pages. The heroine learned a lot about the hero she didn’t know…and so did I. This phenomenon has happened to me several times. It makes me crazy every time it happens.

I will never be a Big Picture writer. I am Linear. I’ve heard people say about writing a synopsis that it just takes the excitement out of writing the book. What I tell them is if I want to go from Denver to New Orleans, I look at a map and discover what roads I need to take, instead of hopping into my car and start driving. It saves time.

I know where I am going, I just don’t know all the things I’ll see on the trip.

8 comments:

Barbara Phinney said...

Leann,
I am a linear writer too, and I consistantly come in short. Like you, I've ended too soon, I see. (Thank you!) and need to learn more about the characters.
Once I did that big picture thing and whoa! for me knitting the scenes together was like pulling teeth!
I'd love hear how others handle the problems in their writings!
Barbara Phinney

Lynette Eason said...

I'm an intuitive writer. I write what makes sense to me. The story is in my head (mostly) and a lot of times the writing is just like transcribing a movie only I can see. I've written both ways. From the beginning to the end and then written scenes and knitted them together. I like writing from beginning to end best, but will do whatever works to get the story done. LOL.

PamelaTracy said...

I'm a linear writer, too, and I worry about falling short but never do. I'm usually seventy pages over and have to cut. Luckily, my critique group is always writing tighten on those early pages LOL

PamelaTracy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GunDiva said...

Lynette, I've always wished that I could just plug my computer into my brain like that Keanu Reeves movie and transcribe the pictures I have into text. Then writing would be a breeze! My friend writes all over the place and pieces it together; just the thought makes my head hurt. I'm definitely a more linear writer.

Jill Kemerer said...

I have friends who are big picture writers too. It works for them. It could never work for me! I'm linear, all the way!

Leann said...

I'm telling you that once I figured out these different styles, my life became so much simpler.

Margaret Daley said...

I don't follow a detail synopsis but I do write linear. I don't usually jump around. A few times I've skipped a scene and come back to write it.