I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the trick to effective writing is planning.
Sure, it’s fun to do what people call ‘pantsing’ – making stuff up as you go along, getting caught up in your own story. It carries the vibrance of fresh creativity. But for writers who are starting out it often leads to dead ends, tangles or big-scale structural failures. Put another way, writing as personal entertainment doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to producing stuff to time, length and specification. Which is how publishing works.
Yes, sure Famous Novellist X or Y (I’m thinking Stephen King) will say that they ‘pants’ their way through their stories. Actually they don’t, exactly. Usually they know where it’ll end. And they’re experienced enough – they’ve done the million word apprenticeship – to have command of their style and content. They can structure properly on the fly, and they know what elements have to come where to make the story compelling.
The rest of us – well, planning counts. Trust me on that one. Start broad; what is the purpose of the written material? Can you sum it up in a sentence. In the industry, that’s called a ‘logline’.
If it’s a novel, don’t get caught up in the intricacies of plot or narrative. You need a deeper level than that for a logline, which reflects the character arc of the key character. If it’s non-fiction, what is the thesis – the argument?
This broad purpose applies to everything that’s written – from a letter to an essay to a short story to a doctorate to a novel.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014
And now, some shameless self promotion: my history of New Zealand, now available as e-book.
Also available on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/nz/book/bateman-illustrated-history/id835233637?mt=11
Buy the print edition here: http://www.batemanpublishing.co.nz/ProductDetail?CategoryId=96&ProductId=1410