OK so I have my idea. It’s an idea that excites me. If I found a book on a shelf based upon this (my!) idea, I would buy it. I’ll give you a hint about what it’s about……pssst, don’t tell anyone……it involves a woman…and ….a man…ssshhhhh….it’s very original…..
So I have my idea, and I have even placed that idea within a specific setting, and often find myself lost for a while in that magical dreamland where everything is wonderful.
But I don’t have any notion on how to even begin to organize it, what according to the various writer’s blogs and how-to writing books I have looked at, is referred to as ‘structure’.
Now not everybody gets worked up about whether or not they have a structure that they write into. Some writers seem to be able to start with an idea and follow it merrily along to a very satisfying ending.
I’ve tried that approach, and I end up tangled in knots, unable to find the beginning, middle or end.
Although to date this approach has been a disaster for me, I don’t intend to forget about it completely. I have a feeling that maybe when I learn the ‘rules’, i.e. how to apply structure as a writing tool, that later on, after many happy years of experience and expertise (!), I shall return to this magical realm of Not Knowing. But before I can break the rules, I have to learn how to apply them.
This leaves me with one option only – to study and learn as much as I can about the relationship between creating a story and writing it so that it fits into a previously established structure or framework.
Put like this, it all sounds every boring. But this past week I have been attempting to write a serialized short story for a magazine. Choosing to write a story like this automatically requires me to make an outline of what is likely to happen in part 1, then in part 2, and finally in part 3.
Writing this way makes the process both easier and harder. Easier, in that I know when I am using too many words to get an idea across and that I need to cut then back straight away. This is a great way to learn how to say more with less!
Harder, for the obvious reason that I sometimes feel a bit stifled, as if my creative juices are being stemmed. But I only feel bad about it, when the work is not progressing. Once again, having a sense of structure usually helps me get over the obstacles hindering progress.
According to Priscilla Long who wrote the best how-to writing book ever – The Writer’s Portable Mentor : A Guide to Art, Craft and the Writing Life the most oft given advice from highly successful authors is to write every day, and write into a structure. If a writer of the calibre of Carolyn See who has penned 6 novels, 3 non-fiction books, and co-authored 5 other books, tells me to write into a structure, then I’ll be dammed if I don’t listen to her.
This doesn’t mean I’m about to give up my free writing. It does mean that I am going to spend a little time organizing my story ideas into viable story lines and plots and writing into them. Oh yes, and changing mid-stream if the Muse demands it. After all, structure is only a tool, not the master of ceremonies.
Next week I hope to look into the topic of structure in more depth, that is unless the Muse sends me scurrying elsewhere.
Watch this space!