May 10, 2009


I made an exciting discovery this week! I found that outlining a book is very much an act of story-telling. For a long time I have taken creative pride in my ability to write Ironic Dance as it unfolded like a movie in my head. I enjoyed not knowing what was going to happen unitil it spilled from my pen, or was tapped on the keyboard. There on my computer screen I watched as my story presented itself like magic to me, the first to get the inside scoop.

Then one day, the Muse in my head went on vacation. I realized that all along the story had been coming from a source. It "came" to me because I had the basic plot and action coursing through my neurons. Suddenly, in the middle, I faced the fact that my game plan had ran off the page. Without it, the movie could not be directed. Hmm. My baloon deflated, I took a few weeks (ok several) to sulk, then an entirely different kind of inspiration hit me.

Instead of smugly ignoring the likes of Sunny Frazier, I picked up my pen and began to plot. Nothing overly elaberate. I just wrote Chapter such and such and wrote down what I wanted to happen. And you know what-I told a story. I looked upon my work (yes, it IS part of the work of writing) and realized that I was building the skeleton of the rest of my story. It was exhilerating. It was fun! I kept coming up with deeper plot elements that I could connect to earlier parts of my story. I discovered that I knew my book, and my characters more intimately than ever before.

Now I can sit at my keyboard and form the flesh for the skeleton. This has given me a greater sense of power as a writer. Because I am acting as a deliberate planner of my story, I am not dependent on my subconsious to drop gifts to me. Of course it still does and that is pleasurable, but now Ironic Dance is MY story. I am the storyteller, not the story receiver. It means that I always have plenty to do. Even when I am not writing the story, I am engaged in forming it. Whether ploting, doing character analysis, or storyboarding. I am performing real work. The work of brining Ironic Dance to fruition. Thanks to EVERYONE who has helped me learn this lesson.


At May 10, 2009 at 8:46 PM , Blogger C. N. Nevets said...

Jackie -- thank you *so* much! This is a lesson I learned only in the past year. I celebrate outlines now! I used to think of them as rules that impinged on my freedom to tell an artistic story that is vibrant and alive. Now I realize that they are tools that actually propel me to greater freedom to write with vibrancy when what I don't need to be simultaneously figuring out what happens next.

At May 12, 2009 at 4:07 PM , Blogger Sarah said...

I did the same thing not too long ago with the YA I'm writing and wow, does it EVER make a difference! I know the characters better, have more drive to write since I know the story is going SOMEWHERE instead of wondering *if* it'll go anywhere at all. So much for by-the-seat-of-my-pants writing, I'll be thinking through my plots and characters more from now on.

Btw, I was at the author chat this last weekend (redheaded chick with the motorcycle helmet?). I'm wondering if anyone knows of some local crit groups going in the Hanford area?

At May 16, 2009 at 12:19 PM , Blogger Dorinda Ohnstad said...

First, to Jackie: I think it's exciting to see you excited about your story. That's what's important, finding what keeps you moving forward with your book. Sounds like you found your breakthrough. Now if I can find mine....

Second, to Sarah: the Kings County Writers Support group meets the first and third Saturday in the back upper room of the Hanford Library from 10 - noon. That's where those of us who blog here got our start.


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