Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Scary Blank Page

After a hectic day, I’ve paused long enough to remember I am scheduled to blog today. So I’ve poured myself a glass of wine (it’s 7.30pm here) and sat down to face a blank computer screen with no idea what to write.

I rarely experience writer’s block, but nothing of interest has come to mind, so I’m going to examine the subject. Although I make up my stories as I write and often sit down at the computer with nothing specific planned, I always know my characters well before I start a new book. For me, the plot and progress of the story spring from the actions of the characters. By writing this way, I hope my characters always behave ‘in character’.

One of my personal bugbears is when I read a book where a character acts in a way I know they wouldn’t because the character needs to do a certain thing to fit the plot. I may be wrong, but this suggests to me the author had the plot worked out in advance and followed the plan even when the characters grew into people who wouldn’t act in that way.

I have heard other writer’s say they need a plot outline to free their minds to write the story, and that if they sit down to write with no plan their mind seizes up. My process works the other way around. Writing an outline ties me down and kills my creativity. I’ve written a detailed outline only once. My brain found the process of sticking to the outline so restricting, I had to write a second book at the same time with no pre-planning at all so I didn’t go mad.

Perhaps it all comes down to personality. I am fairly organised (I’ve run my own business for 20 years, so I have to be) but when it comes to writing, my mind switches gear, or more correctly, shifts out of gear and free wheels.

What about you? Do you face your blank page with a plan in hand, or wait for your characters to tell you what to write?


Anonymous said...

Welcome to the Pantser Brigade! I too tend to dive in without knowing much about the plot. My outlines look like this: "Joe meets Mary, who has this problem, and in the end they wind up in Jersey but I'm not quite sure how they get there." Figuring it out is what makes writing fun. Somebody said if the plot surprises you, the writer, it'll surprise the readers too. I understand you can even do this with murder mysteries, as long as you know who the killer is before you start. If I ever finish one I'll let you know.


Savanna Kougar said...

Helen, mine are definitely character-driven because, for me, why else write it? It's there love/passion story.
I may get glimpses of where the plot goes, or even an outline in my head as I'm writing, but it still comes from my heroine and hero.
So exciting about Magic Knot!!! coming out.

Pat, I love it when I write something totally unexpected. Of course, it's often one of those corners I have to figure my way of...unless the characters take pity on me.