Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Quora on writing and links aplenty on outlines

A recent Quora question: What should everyone know about writing?  Zachary Norman offered his father's advice:
It's a full time job.  To be successful you must be disciplined.  You do it from nine to five, five days a week.  Focus on your work for forty hours and put it away at night and on the weekends.  When you're blocked write something else, sonnets, poems, the "other novel", love letters.  The point is you must write full-time.  A writer's talent is a muscle that must be worked out, and like a bicep it will strengthen with use.
Writers write alone, in quiet.  Writers don't write in coffee-shops.  Silence is the blank canvas onto which the world of the work is drawn.
Personally, I think the bit about silence is more of a individual preference, but I like the rest.

Stan Hayward says:
Writing effectively clears the brain.
It is a form of talking to oneself.
When you write your thoughts down you find it easier to see alternatives to ideas.
Writing a shopping list will encourage you to check what else you might need while shopping
Writing a diary gives you a sense of how you spend your time, and to plan.
Writing letters makes you focus on what you feel is important.
Writing out lessons - even those already printed - helps to reinforce the ideas in your mind.
Writing and checking what you have written improves your ability to express yourself.
Writing gives others a good idea of how you comprehend things.
The physical act of writing is a eye-to-hand skill that improves your motor control of your body.
I should write more by hand.  Or even print more (by hand) as I desperately need to maintain the minimal hand-eye coordination I currently have.  Of course, I also need to type more carefully so as to stop using 'teh' as an article.

The link above also includes a list of similar topics: creative writing, freelance writing, grammar and more.
Nanowrimo is coming round again soon.  Last year, I finished the month in style, with two thousand words over the minimum.  The story I wrote had been a sort of daydream of mine for years and I had worked out a lot of details in my head before I started typing.  The story still surprised me and went places I hadn't anticipated but I had ten or so plot points in mind and their order.  This let me jump around in time.  When I couldn't think of where to go next in the first chapter, I jumped to the fourth chapter and started in.  When I ran out of literary steam there, I went to chapter 2 and so on.  Once place I was particularly weak on was character.  I had to invent character tics, flaws and general individuality on the fly.  I want to be more formally prepared this time.

Nanowrimo used to have an outline planner that you could print out.  I guess they still do but I can no longer find it.

Writer's Digest has one.  Well, many, printouts to guide you.
Necessary Writer has an outline.
Creative Writing Now has three: Novel Outline, Character Outline and Scene Outline.
Many seem to love Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet. See here (from here), here, and here.
One of the above links is from Belinda Crawford who also links to more templates, including some for Scrivener, which professional writers seem to love.
Added Sept 7: Gord Sellar looks at character development.  I hope this excerpt is, well, clear enough.  Follow the link for a chart that explores the ideas further.
In other words, Paracelsus saw the world not in terms of the four elements and their elemental natures (dryness, coldness, heat, and wetness) but instead in terms of dynamic properties that were part of all matter, and which could be manipulated through alchemical processes, specifically these:
  • saltSulphur, representing what is combustible, or burned away in alchemical procedures
  •  sulphur Salt, representing what cannot be burned away in alchemical procedures
  • MercuryMercury, representing the enduring, but transmutable, part of a thing which is purified through alchemical procedures.
This is interesting because there was also an idea in Renaissance alchemy that an alchemist had to engage in alchemical work in order to achieve a self-transformation that imbued him or her with the capacity to actually perform the highest works of alchemy, including the creation of Philosopher’s Stone, which after all was not used to “turn lead into gold” but rather was (by many alchemists, at least) understood as a catalyst that facilitated and accelerated a natural process of purification that they believed all matter–including metal–was undergoing anyway.
What’s tantalizing about that is how central in Western fiction it is that a character must change, under pressure of the story. Stories are widely read as, and understood to be about, the process of transformation that a character or group of characters undergo in the course of a process usually involving increasing pressure and raised stakes–rather like the heating of metals in an alchemical ritual or experiment.
One can very easily reformulate Paracelsus’ tria prima into a schematic model of character development, too:
  • saltWhat in the character is to be “burnt away” through the experiences of the story.
  •  sulphur  What in the character is to remain the same, because its durability and fundamentality ensures that it cannot be burnt away.
  • MercuryWhat in the character is, instead of burning away or enduring, is purified through transmutation from one form to another (typically, from a baser form to a more precious form).


Marcus Peddle said...

I couldn't write from 9 to 5 every day and leave it alone in the evenings and at the weekends. Some writers can do that (Stephen King, for example) but I can't maintain creativity of any quality for more than an hour in the morning. And poetry doesn't usually arrive in my brain until evening and after a few cups of tea. Ian McEwan writes about 800 words in the morning, reads in the afternoon, and then relaxes with family or friends in the evening. I think every writer has to find the schedule or non-schedule that produces the best work.

Surprises Aplenty said...

We are not professional writers, Marcus, I (we?) should write and do research from 9 to 5 every day - or some similar eight-hour work day - if I (we?) want to make it a full time thing. I agree that typing for eight hours straight wouldn't work for me, but working on writing projects for that length of time should be reasonable. For my preferences, 9 to 5 would work better than Hunter S. Thompson's typical work day.

Surprises Aplenty said...

Enneagrams and character development.
More ideas on defining and describing characters in stories: