Process or Program?

Posted: August 25, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Process or Program?

This is for all those unfortunate writers (like me) who aren’t blessed with the ability to start writing and keep writing a complete story without the need to stop and outline or at least brainstorm a plan for the flow of the plot.

Frankly I don’t know if there are many out there like that but whoever you are, you have my respect and admiration (and more than a tinge of envy).

I’m prolific out of the gate when I have an idea for a plot or a character and have started a story with as little as three random words, using the almost unlimited resources from books and the Internet for creative writing prompts. You could open up a dictionary and pick out three of four random words, although realistically they do better when referring to a character, a place, an object, and/or an event.

It’s what follows that initial burst of flowing words where I usually come to a screeching halt. What happens next? Why are these characters doing what they are doing at this place? What are they after? It’s time then to start planning, outline, and brainstorm the answers to these questions.

There are a number of ways to approach outlining, one of which is to employ a writing software application. Dramatica Pro, Wizards for Authors, Scrivener, Write Now, the list goes on and on. There are a number of free applications available for download, a few of which I’ve tried. There is a market for writing software, mainly because writers are looking for help in organizing their work, and like me, are searching for ways to write a novel or short story faster and more efficiently, minimizing the time between the germ of an idea and a work worthy of submitting for publication.

I won’t make any claims as to the worth of any of these applications. I’m sure there are writers who use them with some degree of success. I have experimented with a few of them and they all have redeeming value.

Given over twenty-five years in the IT field, I’m well aware of the work required to design, code, test, and implement these programs. The developer must anticipate the errors which might occur and the responsibility to stand by to support their product is an awesome one.

I prefer a process to organize and design a story. Software programs will do only as much as the developer allows, even if they are is a writer or consulted a writer while designing the application.

A process allows the writer to design, outline, and organize a story on a piece of paper, a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet, a whiteboard, or a chalkboard without restrictions on rules.

In the coming weeks, I will document my experience in using Excel for things such as timelines and character profiles.

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  1. SexwAnnie says:

    I guess I’m one of those reckless writers. I write the two main characters bio’s in my notebook. Then I start writing their story. From there I will add characters and just add their names, occupations, and something that I need to remember about them in my notebook.

    I have tried to write an outline but I usually don’t follow it. Oh well, Maybe one day I will get organized. Great Post Jack..

    • jackstr952 says:

      Annie – you must do what works for you and characterization is sometimes a tough one. I’ve read a lot about how the author should fill out an extensive profile on their main characters and get to know them inside and out, yet character without events or actions are just . . . well . . . characters. I prefer to have some sort of outline or at least an idea of the scenes occurring in the story and how the main characters interact before I decide how I’ll portray their traits and “bring them to life.” Regarding organization, have you tried Scrivener? I resisted using it for some time until I gave it a try and like any and every other program/process out there, it won’t write your story for you but is great for organization and actually has helped me to focus on one scene at a time. Your “reckless” approach sounds like it keeps you from getting bogged down in too many details, which sometimes keeps authors from actually writing the story. P.S. LOVE YOUR PICTURE! LOL.

  2. I’ve mostly been in the memoir and creative non-fiction genre. I have the ‘picture’ in my head for days or weeks. then I usually do a word splash-free writing phrases about the person, if I have a photo i use that to recall events. When I have fictionalized stories based on real events I keep a log of sorts and write behavioral reactions the character may have to events and how I can show that. I categorize my writing as semi-engineered process.
    Liked your blog. Thanks.

  3. Great post here, Jack! And you’re right. Everyone’s methods are different. I usually let the scenes come to me casually, then I get to work by doing major character worksheets and outlining the book. That helps me add the details I need, and the outline keeps me motivated. Now and then, a character will still surprise me with a plot twist or their motivation and I allow for that.

  4. I’m probably your worst nightmare as a writer. I have only a vague idea of where I want to be at the end of the book when I start writing and the adventure creates itself as I go along. I’m a compulsive editor. I go over what I’ve written change it, hone it until I’m satisfied, and then let the characters and action pull me along. It’s a crazy ride from start to finish.

  5. Gaby Pratt says:

    I have Nik Morton’s Write A Western In 30 Days – with plenty of bullet points!! – and Westerns being by favorite, we’ll see.Thank you for addressing software programs in your blog.

  6. I’m a pantster. The story plays out in my head and I just go for it.

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