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Author Topic: Out of Order
EVOC
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I'm not an outline writer. That isn't to say that I don't have some element of structure in my head, but I more or less make it up as a I go.

My current novel project has thrown me for a loop, and I am looking for a suggestion or two.

I started this novel with the intentions of only telling it in third person from the main character's point of view. I'm some 25,000 words into it now.

Here is the predicament. My mind is suddenly racing with ideas for several chapters in another character's POV, and even a chapter in a third character's view. These chapters will round out the story, and keep the key secondary character more "active" in the novel. He is disconnected from the MC after three or four chapters, and the need for the MC to reconnect with him is her driving factor.

I don't have a problem writing these chapters and inserting them appropriately into the novel. But, every time I sit to write them, the main character's story line nags at me for being unfinished.

But when I am not writing my mind is constantly on these other character's story and how it ties into where my MC is at now. So I feel a bit trapped between a nagging need and a creative one.

This is new to me. My first novel was written in several POVs but I wrote it that way from the start.

So I am wondering should I finish my main character's story and then write the other character's story and weave them together? Or should I go back and write these chapters in now and then get back to writing the story in the way that it will likely turn out in the finished product?

Thanks!

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extrinsic
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A novel that deftly manages multiple character viewpoints and even narrators worthy of finding guidance from is Jonathan Fanzen's Freedom. His novel Corrections is not quite as deft but similarly expresses several viewpoints.

A writing principle worthy of noting in those novels and others with multiple viewpoints is how the writer develops narrative point of view and voice, which are part and parcel. Among other introductory features, they introduce narrative point of view and develop narrative point of view from the beginning. In other words, the narrator's voice and psychic access to characters' thoughts is established from the get-go.

A planning writer will sketch out these features during prewriting, before drafting, but developed from sketching. An intutive writer will move forward and see what develops. A blended writer will start with a plan and adjust as circumstances arise.

In your scenario, I'd suggest some of each, finding which works for which writing phase. Completeing the main character's story will give you a road map for where to include the secondary character's separate story, and the third character's. But as inspiration arises, write the intercession chapters. Regardless, do not resist going with the flow simply because doing so might save time and effort during the reworking phase. It won't.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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EVOC, I am a huge proponent of the "write the parts that are nagging at you first" school of writing, mainly because if you write it while it has a lock on your brain, it will be more exciting to read. If you wait, you will lose that excitement.

So I urge you to scratch that itch now (mixed metaphors?--tough!). The rest of the story will still be there when you're done, and there may be unconscious depth as you do the main part that wouldn't have been there if you hadn't written the nagging stuff.

Remember, you can sort it all out in the rewrite.

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genevive42
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I agree with writing the nagging parts. I have scene sketches that I know may never happen, but I had to get the idea out of my head. Having said that, I have no problem with the idea of writing the main character's story line and then going back and filling in the side stories. I develop those stories in my head as I'm moving forward with the mc's story line but can wait to write them.
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MattLeo
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Well, at the risk of being a bit contrarian here, at some point you get to a part of the MS you just don't find that inspiring, and then there's nothing to do but to knuckle down if you want to finish.

But given that you're only 1/4 to 1/3 of the way through the MS, you're almost certainly not there yet. I'd just be aware that taking the path of least resistance now could be storing up more work down the line.

No matter how you do do it, at some point getting to an acceptable draft is going to stop being easy and fun and turn into tough work. There are all kinds of creative advantages to giving the characters free reign in shaping the story, but realize that practice exacts a price at the end. You'll probably have a manuscript full of great stuff you'll have to cut to give it focus or to make it accessible to readers who might not be up for a 200K+ word MS.

If you want the MS to be good, there's hard work and tough decisions in your future. This is true no matter what approach you take, so you might as well go the way that feels right to you. Just do it with your eyes open. I'd keep a close eye on word count in particular to see if you're heading deeper into hyper-epic territory than you want. And at some point *do* that outline, which will be a great help in estimating your final word count. Unless you're self-publishing, you'll need to provide an editor with a synopsis at some point anyway.

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Grumpy old guy
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EVOC, when I start writing a story I have an idea of how it ends. Getting to that end is 'the story'. While writing, I have a separate folder where I store 'fragments' of the story. These are scenes and conversations that come onto my mind during 'quiet' moments away from writing. Some of these fragments I end up using, some I just keep in the hope I'll find a use for them somewhere else (which is unlikely -- but good prose is good prose).

Perhaps, scratch that itch as Kathleen says, but keep it separate from the main body of the work for now and insert them later.

Phil.

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EVOC
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Good points all around.

extrinsic, I donít know if it has to do so much with the managing of the multiple viewpoints or that fact that it suddenly hit me at about 30% complete that I needed the multiple viewpoints for depth of all characters and the story. Iím just not used to an idea like that hit me in the middle of the project. This is, after all, only my second novel length project.

KDW and genevive, I think you both may be right. I need to get what is bugging me down on paper. Perhaps it wouldnít hurt to write these chapters that just popped in my head, and then go back to the main story. But the main story also still pulls on me hard. I already keep a log of story ideas, those ones that hit me when I'm walking kids to school and whenever else I happen to be. But for some reason I had never really thought of doing it with ideas from the projects I am currently working on. So I might try that idea too.

Mattleo, my writing style of avoiding outline has made me very comfortable with the idea of cutting words. But comfort doesnít translate into easy. I had to cut some 30,000 words from Dissolution of Peace, and I certainly wouldn't say it is at epic length (even the original MS). But when you write what the character tell you to write, you get used to seeing that the characters are sometimes boring. [Big Grin]

Grumpy Old Guy, I already know how the story will end. While I don't write out an outline, when I get a new idea for a story or novel, I just can't seem to put fingers to keys until I know where that idea will go. In this novel, I under estimated the importance of the secondary characters and the possibility that the reader may want to see how the events are taking place in their POV. Again, I think I better start using my writerís notebook for more than just brand new story ideas.

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
EVOC, I am a huge proponent of the "write the parts that are nagging at you first" school of writing, mainly because if you write it while it has a lock on your brain, it will be more exciting to read. If you wait, you will lose that excitement.

I *must* write when it nags me, when it comes to me, or I won't write it at all. When it first comes to me, that's when it's RIGHT. If I ignore the nagging... I can never quite recreate that moment.

[This is somewhat complicated by the fact that most of my stuff comes to me while I'm scooping the kennel!]

Hardly anything comes to me in catalog order, tho, and I've never worried about it. Right now I have 5 WIPs and I do a bit here, a bit there, whenever the muse strikes. [Ow! me 'ead!!']

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EVOC
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I just don't seem able to do multiple WIPs at the same time. I get very involved in my worlds and characters. I can be editing one project, writing another project, and mentally planning a third. But I can't seem to be doing any of those on more then one project.

I hope as I develop more, I can get better at doing more projects at once.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by EVOC:
Good points all around.

extrinsic, I donít know if it has to do so much with the managing of the multiple viewpoints or that fact that it suddenly hit me at about 30% complete that I needed the multiple viewpoints for depth of all characters and the story. Iím just not used to an idea like that hit me in the middle of the project. This is, after all, only my second novel length project.


I learned far more writing my second novel than on any other single piece of writing I've done. Sometimes trial and error is the only way forward.
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EVOC
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I do feel like I am picking up a lot more this second go around. Though I learned a lot the first time around too. I only hope to keep learning and growing as a writer.
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Grumpy old guy
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Don't worry EVOC, you will. We all learn what does and doesn't work for us. And what does and doesn't work is as individual as we all are.

Phil.

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KellyTharp
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I don't think one ever stops learning or growing as a writer, even the big pros. I'm on book three in a series and still learning, just doing it a bit faster than at the start. Also, I keep a "File of useless scenes" where I can info dump an idea that I need to get out of my head (It clears space for more ideas in the old crainium). The hardest thing is bridging between scenes. Sometimes I skip forward, write what I know, and work backwards. After I do that I often find I don't need to go back and fill in anything, which always suprises me. As for endings, things came out at the end of my main story that I never planned on. One of my charaters knew everyone's secrets and I never had any idea he knew until I wrote the end. How weird is that? But it worked out really well for the story.
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Robert Nowall
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Write in what order you feel appropriate---choose up the running order and edit together when you're done---but, be warned, if you've got a problem writing one part of it, you might wind up finished except for that part. (I've had a short story sitting in my files for nearly a year now, waiting on original poetry or song lyrics. One of these days...)
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rcmann
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There's one thing about it. Anything you write can always be used in another story. Just change the names and modify the situation slightly.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Also, anything you write doesn't have to be in the story, but it can certainly help you figure out what does need to be in the story.

I keep going back to Sinclair Lewis, who, as I understand it, wrote biographies for his main characters (for his own "research") that were longer than the actual novels the characters eventually appeared in.

No writing is really wasted.

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Owasm
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I'm a loose outliner. I'll write out a sentence or two describing principal scenes in advance. However I ran into a situation where I needed to add a character for one of my books and had to interleave her in after the fact. I did it by turning back to my scene outlining and sketched out the scenes in the future where she had to be and the scenes that I had to put her into stuff I'd already written.

It worked for me...just sketching out the scenes so I knew where she had to be so she had a bit of a character arc in the book. I don't know if that helps.

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EVOC
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So I've decided to finish writing the MC's story as I had originally planned. Once that is done, I will go back and reread and insert chapters in the other characters POV as needed to build to the end of the story.

Fortunately I am not really adding in new characters, I'll just be telling some things from the other characters POV.

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