Monday, June 25, 2007

Planning Vs. Writing as the Story Takes You.

I started writing Crimson Swarm after I read a biography of Tolkien. (I don't remember at the moment which one) In the biography the author talked about how Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings. Basically he had the idea that he wanted a story to follow The Hobbit. It had to have the One Ring as a primary element, and he wanted to have some kind of quest. He also had the poem: One Ring To Rule Them All, written. Other than that (and a great deal of back story) He just sat down and started writing.

It was said when he first wrote about Frodo meeting with "Strider" in the Prancing Pony, Tolkien had no idea who Strider was. He only knew that because Gandalf didn't show up (which he also didn't know why) Frodo needed a guide. So thus Strider was born.

This idea appealed to me greatly. I had tried my hand at a large novel in the past, and failed miserably, partly because I'm not a planner by nature. I like to just do things. I'd rather go on a vacation with only vague idea of where we are going, and just see where the road takes us. (My wife however is about as detailed oriented as they come, so this just doesn't fly in my house)

So I sketched out some very basic concepts, and just sat down and started writing, and it was wonderful. I really reveled in the unfolding of the story, and the times when things just surprised me.

I pretty much wrote the entire novel like this. Sure as I went along I started to map things out further, but when I did, I found myself deviating from that pretty quickly.

So now that I've reached the end of the first draft, what do I think about the whole process? Well, there are some good things and some bad things that came up doing it this way. The good is, it was completely enjoyable. And because of that I kept at it. Even when I didn't feel like writing, I told myself, I had to write, because I wanted to see how it ended. I also think there are some twists, and surprises that would not have been there had I mapped it all out before hand.

Now the downside. As I look at the ending, and get feedback from my reading partner (see previous post) I see some major problems. Problems that if I had taken the time to map the story out better probably would have been avoided. I let myself get off on a tangent, following a story line that I never really intended to highlight much.

So now that I see both sides, which will I do next time? I honestly don't know. Maybe a combination of the two.

Do I think that Crimson Swarm is doomed because of lack of planning? No way. I actually don't think there will be much work to go back and adjust the story, cutting what shouldn't be there, and adding what should be, than if I had planned it from the beginning. Only time will tell of course, but I think I have a good idea where I need to go. And the first step is to diagram it out.

I'm excited to see what happens to the story, and I'm convinced it will be much stronger in the end.

1 comment:

Crosspoint said...

I wonder if that's how life actually is. You can't plan anything with certainty and most of your plans end up aborted or changed, but if you plan nothing you keep covering the same ground. So you plan a little and live a little and the whole thing is an awkward clunky dance. But somehow beautiful in the end.