Log in

27 May 2014 @ 12:00 pm
Running to stand still  
Some people are linear writers. I respect that; I say, whatever works is what you should do.

I'm not a linear writer. I don't think I ever have been. I get ideas for scenes, and if I don't record them in some fashion, I'll lose them -- either entirely or "just" the flow that makes them work. That's particularly a problem when the details into and out of a scene, or from one scene to another, are ridiculously hard to pull from my brain, and I only get so much time with my brain in creative-writing-mode in the first place.

(I'm constantly crafting or polishing scenes in my head, but my day job involves a completely different, highly technical writing style. I'm lucky when that only makes my fiction dry and stilted.)

So I write scenes as I have the motivation for them, in whatever order they're willing to come out of me, and I make notes about linking material when I know that much. Those scenes-and-notes then serve as an outline that I gradually inflate into an actual story, eventually.

This means, though, that I don't post works-in-progress; my style doesn't suit, even if I were otherwise inclined. (I also really need the style and general continuity to be solid. I recently finished reading a story that had clearly been posted in-progress, and the number of details that changed randomly, sometimes due to revelations in the ongoing canon and sometimes due to apparent writer inattention, drove me up a tree.) More than the patchwork nature, though, is the simple fact that as I work those scenes into a narrative, they sometimes go astray.

Last night, for example, I finally got my brain into that particular state it needs for writing. (Far enough from work and bored enough of time-killing games, basically.) I added 1745 words to the very next part of a story I've been working on for years. That may well be more than I've managed to write in about a year, honestly, and it's barely a drop against the 20,000 words of scenes and notes I already have in place.

... And it sends the story in a very different direction than I was expecting.

I mean. I know my initial tendencies veer far too deeply into woobie country. ("Lemon chicken" fics are my guilty pleasure, okay?) My work is much stronger when I see how schmaltzy I've gotten and pull it back to something more reasonable. I've already seen several points in my existing notes that make me roll my eyes at myself; I already knew that certain early ideas were going to change drastically.

But I really didn't expect to find myself writing one of the characters striking another unexpectedly, nor to have the two of them sit down and talk around the topic of the example their parents set. This changes their entire dynamic, at the very start of the very long story, and ... I don't know. I'm not sure how I feel about this development. I think it works for them, at least eventually, but does it work at this point in their relationship? Do I need to rework all those other scenes, or do I need to rip out what I just wrote (something that felt like a natural development, and I can't tell you how rare that is lately)?

Sometimes I envy you linear writers.

Originally posted at Dreamwidth | Comment | comment count unavailable comments
Sholiosholio on May 30th, 2014 02:57 am (UTC)
Okay, now I'm really curious which characters this is. (Rodney and Jeannie?)

I have had an interesting relationship with linear vs. non-linear writing over the years. I used to be very non-linear -- most of my early SGA stories were written out of order. Slowly I slipped into strictly linear writing, in part because of issues like you're talking about: character motivations changing in earlier scenes, or later scenes that I really liked getting totally jossed when I wrote the first p art of the story. But lately I've been sliding back into a more non-linear mode, particularly in my MCU fic. I'm not sure exactly what's going on, although I think it has something to do with writing primarily for plot (linear) vs. character studies with a sort of random/stream-of-consciousness feel to them (non-linear).

.... anyway, I definitely feel your pain. :P
michelel72: SGA-RodneySam-Readingmichelel72 on May 31st, 2014 02:01 am (UTC)
However did you guess?! Heh. Yeah, I'm working on an AU attempted reconciliation while she's pregnant with Madison. But having sat on it for a bit, I've realized that the new scene as written doesn't fit these particular characters. I mean, I'm pretty sure Jeannie wouldn't even blink at the prospect of, say, whacking Rodney on the arm or something. So I'm punting that development and reworking the new scene; I think it's for the best.

That's interesting, that you've found yourself taking different approaches that way. In my case, I tend to work linear only when I'm working very short (which is quite rare for me); for anything even slightly longer, I get ideas for elements far sooner than I find the energy to make them connect. And I'm constantly reworking what's already written, so having to polish a scene that's no longer quite right -- or even remove it to a scraps file and replace it -- isn't usually that daunting. (I was just rattled in this case by a complete derailment in the first two scenes!)

I think I will try to pay better attention to the character-versus-plot dynamic, though. That's a cool hypothesis!