A Reluctant Surrender To Planning

by Cooper Young

I hate, hate, writing in an organized manner.

My process for Descent looked something like this:

1.  Think about book constantly, using music to block out world when possible.  Do this while walking places, at work, cleaning the house, etc.  Do this until emotional bond has been established with characters. Write nothing down.

2. Figure out very, very rough plot.  Again, write nothing down.

3. Come up with a handful of random, unconnected scenes. Write these down.

4. Write the bits that come between them.

5. Smooth things.

6. Repeat 3-5 until something resembling the original plot appears.

7. Add a totally different beginning.

8. Change ending to the exact opposite of what had originally been intended.

9. Sprinkle with violence and dream sequences until it can be considered semi-complete.

10. Repeat step 5 ad nauseum.

As is clear, I write in something like a nebula.  It involves very little written planning. Things seem to spring from one another; if I have a scene in which two characters are in conflict and a later scene in which they cooperate, they need to make up at some point.  I find that if I write in a linear fashion, I have a tendency to go “and then…and then…um…random conflict that makes little sense!  Monsters!  Oh, and now the bad guy is a wizard!” once I get to a certain point.  If I write Points A, L, Q, and X, however, I have a much clearer idea of where things are going and am much less likely to run out of ideas.  I suppose it’s something that could be solved by careful planning but nah nah nah I’m not listening.

Or, rather, I wasn’t listening. I am now; I have to. You see, the very structure of Edorathis  demands it.  While it’s supposed to have a semi-traditional fantasy story line, it’s made up of 55 poems.  Six characters each speak nine poems, and a seventh character gives the epilouge.  Each character has a certain theme—one always writes letters, another journal entries, a third descriptions of the land, etc.—and because of this the actions of each are only seen through the eyes of others. Events are divided into nine sections, each representing roughly a week.

Clearly, I can’t wing it this time.  There’s simply too much structure already in place; to hop around creatively would be to fight what’s already created. Thus, I’ve had to spend the last week or so doing the one thing a abhor most in the writing process: plotting.  I’ve had to sit down and write something like an intended synopsis of each poem before I continue with any of them.  After a week, I’m only about a third of the way done.

This all, I guess, is my reason behind the selection of stories I’ve titled “Nights in Edorathis“. Those little deleted scenes allow me at opportunity to just explore a random moment in the lives of the characters. I miss doing so on a regular basis so much already.

How about you guys?  Have you ever had to totally invert the way you write to accommodate a story?