11 May

The Story Start and The End...


The Start and the End...
You need to know where you're going in order to get there.
This may sound like a DUH! fact, but new writers often forget this, or worse, ignore this fact outright.
Yesss... you can start out on a forest trek, having zero idea where you're going, but the odds of you getting lost and eating your hiking boot leather for nourishment is fairly high.
So it goes with ANY endeavor.
Why new writers think story-telling is exempt from this life-saving practice is beyond me. They conjure up a flowing neck scarf, chiffon curtains, and an unseen ocean breeze that births their muse, and off they go to tale creation perfection land, plunking down one mindless word after another... 
There are no words to match my rolling eyes and look of disdain...
Yesss... by sheer luck, those words may draft out a hint of a story just like a lottery ticket may make you a millionaire. But odds are I'll be finishing my umpteenth book while said Pantser - one who writes by the seat of their pants, with no idea where they're going - will endlessly toil over editing rewrites until their fingers bleed.
I've painfully, sadly, witnessed this first hand.
There was a woman I met at a writer's conference in 2013 who refused to even entertain the need for a story path, and to date, I'm editing my fourth literary novel, and she's still rewriting that tale, the constant rewrites long ago killing whatever passion there may have been in the original words and idea. 
So, yes, you can subscribe to the breezy notion of Pantserdom, but from where I'm sitting that's a hot seat in the despondent depths of Hell.
I'm NOT forcing you to know every nook and cranny of your story. 
What I'm saying is you need to know from the start where the tale starts and where it ends. 
What you see first and what you see last. 
That's so your path is straight and true along that journey.
You're guiding readers, remember? 
Do you want them to eat their hiking boot leather for nourishment, too?
If you begin to outline the scenes you see, right now, even in vague, 1-2 sentence terms, each on their own scene card, then as you move forward in the tale, you will write along a productive path.
In my youth, I used to be a long distance swimmer. I would know where I first dove in, and I would know my end point. And along the way, I had a coach in a boat alongside me to ensure I didn't stray too far away from the route, so I would reach the end point in the most efficient manner. If I hadn't had a guide, I could have easily strayed off course and become too exhausted to finish the competition, never mind placing first. 
Don't assume writing a book is anything different.
If you have wild, romantic notions of this métier, drop them.
They don't exist in reality.
Write down the first scene you see.
Write down the last scene you see.
Write down any scenes which come to your mind that get you along that path, from Start to Finish.
Remember: No scene card is written in stone.
They can always be changed or altered in their line-up. 
What this rough fleshing out does for you is two things:
a) it gets your mind focusing on a single tale, so it can work on it in the conscious and the subconscious,
b) it provides your mind with a guided story path to follow to book completion. 
The odds of you,
~ wildly going off course
~ writing yourself into a plot corner
~ creating plot/character black holes
is IMMENSE without a rough story guide.
In my current literary novel, AIR, I saw an image of the capsized USS Oklahoma battleship, and the moment I saw it, a disembodied voice said to me, "We're in here. Get us out." Then, sometime later - it may have been a few days - I saw the end scene. I knew where this tale was going.
As the weeks drew on, and I began to research the history of the Oklahoma's part in the Pearl Harbor attack, all six primary characters began to take shape in my mind and subsequent scenes birthed that would get me from scene A to scene Z, and I jotted each down in 1-2 sentences on a recipe card.
Over the next months, those cards increased, and my knowledge of the history/facts got to the point where I was ready to begin writing. And from that moment on, all it took was to flip those scene cards, one by one, and draft those scenes into a full narrative.
Writing a book is not rocket science, but it does have a process, and the sooner you realize this the better your book writing success will be.
It doesn't matter in what genre you write or what unreal worlds exist therein. If it's a book humans will read, it must have a reasoned progression. That is not to say there won't be surprises along the way, for the author, first, and of course, for the reader, but you need a path to follow so no such plot/character block or black hole will materialize - mechanical or psychological - in completing your book.
Before you put up your hand in protest, seriously consider what I've just said. I'm spouting a truism which has led to completing four research-heavy historical literary novels, one child's adventure story memoir, and a writer's How To.
Do you want to complete your book with a minimum of frustration and edit rewrites?
Or does the romantic notion of writing like a Pantser supersede your desire to competently finish your book?
Reality or Fantasy, peeps?
Unfinished manuscript? Published book?
It's up to you.

No comments: