Mark Terry

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Inside Out, Upside Down

November 2, 2010
In my current WIP, tentatively titled The Sins of the Father, I've been struggling with the plot, which is fairly unusual for me. Typically my books, especially the Derek Stillwater novels, are quite linear. There's some sort of terror attack, Derek responds and has to prevent the next attack or series of attacks while solving who the identity and location of the terrorist is. At times I think of it as a mystery-solved-on-the-run (a good enough definition of a thriller as any and better than some).

Somewhere around the 50,000 word range I felt sort of stuck, so I printed it out and started back at the beginning, taking notes, making changes, trying to see at what point I might have gone off the rails.

Although I'm not 100% sure, I'm fairly sure I've figured it out. There are a lot of things, but one is that I appeared to have written the first act, then the third act. (I don't necessarily consciously structure my novels that way, but really, the 3-act structure is a valuable skeleton for most stories, which at its most basic is beginning, middle, end--well, duh!). Anyway, I had this sort of personal story arc going for Derek, then a sort of overarching story arc, and the two do overlap, of course, but what happened, I think, was the first 30,000 or so words introduce both story arcs, then, I got into the personal story arc, which, as it turns out, really needs to be toward the end of the novel, not in the middle. So I need more development of the overarching story arc, so I'm going to have to sort of start back in the middle and grow the rest of the book into the final act. Yikes!

Now, I've heard of some writers who do this sort of thing all the time. They write scenes that come to them, then piece the whole thing back together (which sounds like a lot of work, personally, even though it might explain why some novels feel disjointed). I don't do things that way, although apparently I'm going to have to this time.

So you tell me? Is your writing linear? Non-linear? FUBAR?

(Oh, that reminds me. I got a new acronym. FISHMO: Fuck it, Shit happens, Move on!)



Blogger Stephen Parrish said...

I'm adding FISHMO to my vocabulary.

The only way I can write a logical story without an inordinate amount of cutting or filling is by following an outline.

6:51 AM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I write linearly... um.

Yeah. I start at the start and end at the end. This isn't to say I don't come back in and throw some stuff in later. Like, you know, 3 more POVs.

7:53 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Mary and I work from an outline. The outline does change as we progress and we almost always go back and add new scenes. The first book we did, in fact, write a lot of scenes that seemed cool and then figured out how to string them into the plot. That turned out to be very difficult and we ended up with all sorts of time line difficulties. After that we went to an outline.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

I used to write linearly. It worked far better. When the ADD got worse, I had to deal with putting down whatever words I could get down, in whatever order they came.

It makes a mess, I hate it, I throw a lot away, and I much prefer writing linearly. Sometimes you have play the hand you're dealt, though.

Mindola SuperNotecard really helps me put things back in order when that happens, though. I just put one scene per notecard, and then the left hand nav lists the scene titles, and I can move around until the story is in order and I've got it figured out. Then I output (in order), and I can smooth things out and fill in what needs to be filled in.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

My first thought was, "Oh, Natasha and all of her software to organize her head." You and Tobias Buckell and David Hewson, I swear, you must spend more time figuring out new software than you do writing.

But this one sounds interesting, and it's got a free trial, so I downloaded it and will play around with it. It sounds like just what I need at the moment.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

Hah! I need something to organize my head!

I tend to alternate software. I have no idea why. :-) I always end up using SuperNotecard for every project, at some point. I can figure my way around new software pretty quickly. (Except for Liquid Writer. Writemonkey is awesome but I had to read the directions, LOL. That hurt my pride.)

You can use the free trial forever. You just have to click past a splash screen after so many notecards. I found it so useful, I ended up buying it.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...


But of course now I am writing a book that moves from the Plague . . . to 2020 and skips in time. But I am still writing the SCENES in the order they will be in the book.

6:05 AM  

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