Discovering What You Don’t Know

This past week has been cathartic. ChompedStop

Using the “seat of the pants” writing approach got me through the first section of my novel, about 10,000 words worth. But finishing that first section brought me to a literary crossroads: what’s next?

I realized that I had no idea. I’m feeling pretty good about my start. Or is it a middle? I’m not sure yet.

I also realized that it is time to take a step back and look at my plans for this story from a broader perspective. Yep, I mean an organizational viewpoint. Given my analytical nature, it was inevitable; I just didn’t expect it to come upon me so suddenly.

I don’t regret the past several weeks of writing without a plan. Being a “pantser” (Larry Brook’s term for someone who writes by the seat of their pants) accomplished several critical things for me:

  • It got me started with writing fiction.
  • It showed me that I enjoy writing fiction. (I needed to know that.)
  • It gave me inspiration for how my fantasy world needs to work.
  • It gave me a sense of forward motion on my book while I studied the craft.
  • It gave me a starting point for my story, actually helping me figure out what the story would be.

These were important things to discover. I honestly didn’t know if I would even like writing fiction. I still don’t know if I’m any good at it, but for now I’m having fun. I also knew almost nothing about “the craft” of writing fiction initially. As they say, if you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.

I faced the same problem everyone faces when they dive into something completely new: I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been busily learning what I don’t know. It’s a lot. But at least I’m starting to get a feel for the scope of work ahead of me. Finishing my first novel by January 2012 will be a difficult challenge, but I still think it’s doable.

One of my conclusions is that I do need an outline after all (at least a rough one.) Not just because many writing experts say you need one, but because I’m at the point where a roadmap would help me figure out where to go next.

So my next trick is to work seriously on my “story architecture” as it’s called.

I’ve added several new writer’s blogs to my RSS reader (I added my favorites to the links over in the right side bar), and I’ve ordered three new books from Amazon to help me with this process:

  • The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises
    by James Scott Bell
  • Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction
    by Jeff Gerke
  • Story Engineering
    by Larry Brooks

I also put Fiction Writing for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson on my Amazon wish list because I think his Snowflake Method is brilliant. In fact, thanks to his online article on the subject, I’m busily applying the Snowflake Method to my novel right now.


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