Some writers use notecards and plan their stories. Others use outlines. Someone once asked me if I used storyboards. Probably some writers out there use them. And some writers have the ending and write towards that. Then there are those writers who write with no map whatsoever, starting with an image or a character and nothing else. Sure it takes longer to get where they’re going, but they get there all the same. That’s just it–if you’ve got it in you to finish, it hardly matters the method of travel.
I’m the fly blind sort of writer. My first novel started with an image from a writing exercise. Write about marbles the scrap of paper said. Well, writing about a game of marbles seemed predictable and, since I know nothing about the game, difficult. But as I thought about marbles, I thought about how they sound when they hit wooden stairs. Then I wondered why someone would dump marbles down a staircase. And so came a story–for better or for worse.
I read on a blog somewhere (and forgive me blogging gods for not remembering where–too much surfing addles the brain) someone suggesting that this unplanned way of getting the words down wasted a lot of time. Maybe. If it doesn’t work for you, it certainly does. But the only way I know to get to the end is to wander aimlessly around around something in the distance catches my eye–so, that’s where I’m going! And I get to see so much along the way.
Maybe these writing styles can be predicted by learning styles. I’ve tried notecards and outlines, feeling that I’m being efficient and productive and sensible. Professional. Soon though, I’m in a muddle, annoyed, lost, and frustrated, index cards missing or scattered on the floor or outline a mess with doodles crowding in from the margins. It reminds me of school. A while back I heard a mathematician talk in wonder about people who use these confusing and complicated methods of figuring out a math problem. She was baffled by these people. I had to laugh as she described one of these weird methods. How do I figure out 35% of anything? Well, let’s see. I know what 10% is. I multiply that by 3. Then I divide the 10% in half to get the 5% and I add it to the other total. Ta-da! 35%. Math teachers did not appreciate this. And if something was 33%? This is trickier. I compare 35 and 30 and figure it is somewhere in between. Close enough.
Now, math is not the way to write a novel, but I can no more manage an outline than I can follow a formula. I can feel the gears in my brain stopping spinning. I can sense this gap in my brain–question on one side. Answer on the other. The practical bridge between them–washed out.
As a teacher I can’t follow a lesson plan either. I walk into class with one, and before the first hour is done, I’ve forgotten all about it. But my students learn, so we do get to where we’re going.
To change metaphors again because my brain is hoping around wildly tonight–I can see, once I step back, that my novels are very strange houses. The foundation is there and the frame, but rooms are askew and walls tilting and perhaps beams are held together with strings of lights, the wiring being finicky and the plumbing loud. Perhaps there are holes in the roof where the sun shines through over here and the rain leaves puddles over there. Some of the windows close and some do not. The many staircases creak and don’t always go where you’d think. Sometimes it’s enchanting and sometimes you just think–they really ought to get someone who knows what they’re doing in here.
But I can’t read the instructions if they don’t come with pictures. Can you?