Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Exploration of Discovery

When I was young, my family would hop in the car and just go, no destination in mind.  We had a free afternoon and my dad wanted to see “where the car will take us.”

“We’re exploring, Robbie.  Let’s just see what we discover.”

It didn’t make much sense to me back then.  I mean, dad was the one driving.  The car wasn’t deciding anything.  The only thing it ever decided was where to break down, which was never a good point in time.  My bad luck with cars was inherited from my father.

Those afternoon drives are how I prefer to write.  I pick a general direction and then allow my pen to dictate what side roads to go down.  I usually have a broad idea of what I want in a story jotted down somewhere.  For example, Losing Faith is about Selby and Faith Greer who open their marriage up to sexual adventures outside the bonds of matrimony.  I knew Faith was going to begin having sex with her boss and eventually that would lead to family issues and a choice having to be made by the end of the novel.  In To Steal a Star, an evil wizard threatens to bring an evil Darkness to Iolanthe and another wizard, Raynor, has to find a hidden princess, unearth a powerful talisman and save the day.  That’s usually what I begin with as my outline.  Then I start writing and follow the journey of my characters, exploring the side trails as they pop up.  Along the way, I’ve discovered some great plot twists I never would have dreamed up on my own.  (Sounds like my dad’s insistence that the car is making the decisions, doesn’t it?)

I know many prefer to outline their stories.  I’ve read the books on the craft of writing that suggest that you write out a chapter by chapter outline so that you stay on track and keep to your story.  I do write out character backgrounds and descriptions as well as important historical facts about the world I am creating in order to keep the rules of my novel in front of me.  However, that’s about as far as I go with it.  Everything is a series of side roads until I reach the journey’s end, exploring the characters as they reveal themselves to me.

The first draft, for me, is all about the excavation of ideas and possibilities.  During the process, I’m discovering new characters, getting rid of old ones, and figuring out the subplots.  The second draft is about fixing everything so that it falls in order and flows properly.  Chapters are added and scenes deleted so that the front of the book leads to the logical ending.  During the writing of Losing Faith, I decided Edwin being married wasn’t going to work, and since I didn’t have the time to go through a lengthy divorce for him, I demoted his wife to girlfriend status.  A little further into the story it was obvious that even a girlfriend wasn’t going to work in the novel and so her character was given a pink slip without a severance package.  Hopefully, she’ll find work in another story somewhere.  (And they say Hollywood is tough!)

You’re probably thinking it’s a lot of extra, unnecessary work and that I just like breaking rules and murdering trees.  Well, I do enjoy breaking the occasional rule, but to me this is the same amount of work as outlining and even more fun.  I unearth funny lines and interesting character quirks as I learn the story I am trying to tell better.  It’s what works best for me and with anything in life, that’s how you succeed - by doing what’s best and works for you.  Besides, I’m not going anywhere and the tale is moving forward at a pace that allows me to take in the scenery.  I’m eager to see what I discover next.

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For Further Reading ~ A Matter of Habit
                                The Writing Is In the Rewriting
                                The Organization of Rabbit Trails

Thanks for visiting The Mess!


  1. Robbie, it is always interesting to see how other writers do what they do. You're even way more organized than I am. I don't use any kind of notes or outline...well except I do make a character list just so I can remember all their names. But they don't go on the list until they show up in the story. I am a lot like your father. I have always done that Sunday drive thing with no destination in mind. When I write, I may have a definite destination in mind, but no idea how I'm going to get there. I just sit down and let it flow. When I get stuck, I just walk away from it for a while and let it stew. Next time I sit down to write, it just takes off - sometimes in surprising directions. I guess if I was depending on writing as a livelyhood, I would be more structured and disciplined. But I'm not, so I don't bother. The fun part to me is just letting the creativity flow through me.

    1. It seems to be more fun that way. And those afternoon drives are forever embedded in my memory. Thanks, Robert, and good luck with your writing!

  2. Fantastic post, Robbie I just love how your mind works. I am so in awe of people who can write fiction because I know it takes so much creativity and imagination. I feel like my genre is a walk in the park in comparison and I've always said, when I grow up as a writer I want to learn to write fiction. It's terrific how you offer us little insights to your process because the beauty of art is that we all come at it from a different place/perspective. There is no way you can learn your craft from a book and it sounds to me like you and your cast of characters are moving along just fine. : ) I'm now interested in your work, "Losing Faith."

    1. I agree, Stephanie. Everyone has their way of doing things and that's what makes us so unique. I love stories. They are my escape and I love being able to share them with others. Thanks for visiting and commenting and for your friendship.