Sunday, December 14, 2008

Everything Changes in Execution

So, we're trying this whole-work-stuff-out-ahead-of-time process. Sinead and Maureen have both had to do big rewrites and I'm sure I'm staring down a big rewrite in about three weeks time. Another member of our critique group is going to be starting her current WIP almost from scratch despite having already done a big synopsis. A synopsis we all read. A synopsis that sounded really good.

But this is what I realized - everything changes in execution. Conflict that fills up a synopsis, might not fill up a manuscript. Characters holding down plot in a synopsis aren't weighty enough in the pages. They need to change and grow and that starts to effect more than what was planned. Fantastic lightening bolts hit us in the shower and we tweak something while writing that has a gigantic butterfly effect in chapter 20 that we don't see until we get to chapter 20.

The problem with writing these big opus synopsis is that we think all the blood, sweat and tears we put into them are all the blood sweat and tears we're going to need. But writing is like my dog -- she never gets tired of pats and scratches and playing catch. The more I pat and scratch and throw a ball -- the more she needs. Which is why I hate my dog. And it's sort of why I hate writing - those days that I hate it -- it's so damn hard.

But I think what these big mighty synopsis do is they allow us to make changes that make the book not simply better - but bigger. Broader. It allows us to execute more fully our design for the book. It does a better job of matching what's on the page to the kind of book we want to write. So, this is my new change -- my new plan -- I'm going to gleefully accept these changes. I am going to expect them and then embrace them, like our critique group member did tonight -- because it makes the books better and it makes us better as writers.

8 comments:

Maureen McGowan said...

Yup... I think that no matter how you hope things will go, you always have to be open to changing course.

I'm still hoping the more detailed an outline I do, the bigger the chances it will work when I actually write the scenes... but who knows. In a few months I'll probably be blogging about how my big plan didn't work.

Sinead M said...

Great post, Molly. Truly, the planning up front is really worth it, but in the end, changes will happen and almost always, they make the book better..

I'm with Maureen, planning the same strategy and knowing in advance, I'll still make major changes.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I thought that doing all this work up front would make the writing easier -- so these rewrites and changes have been so hard to get my head around. It's still hard just in a different way.

Alli said...

Great post, Molly. I was always a pantser until I started on my current WIP. I wrote the synopsis, thought I had it down pat, and then when I started my WIP I found I was cutting out characters, rearranging timelines, etc. But it's OK. As you said, it does allow things to get bigger and better. I now realise a pre-WIP synopsis is a reference, not my bible.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I just read Stephen King's book - and he said you SHOULD NEVER PLOT. In fact he called anyone who did writing dullards - to which I took mild exception - but then I'm like he's Stephen King next to him I am a writing dullard.

But I did think when I read that how can you possibly get from A-Z if you don't know where you're at least intending to go. But I'm not a pantser at all - and I know it does work for some people.

No the synopsis is never the end story. But it's a general overview of the story I'm trying to tell and that helps keep me at least somewhat on track.

The only reason I write the synposis at all is A) I have to to get a contract and B) so I can look back at it when I get stuck and think - what did I originally tend to do here?

But typicall it's only about 65% accurate by the time I get done writing the book.

Maureen McGowan said...

After I read that Stephen King book I was such a big believer in the behind-closed-doors-rapidly-written first draft. It worked really well for me once...

But Stephen King doesn't write series, does he... I'd bet he'd change his tune if he was tackling a series.

Plus, as we all know, there's more than one way to skin a cat. (Yuck.)
He rewrites a lot. I think he also says that he doesn't know what a book's about until he's written the first draft, let it sit for a few months and then reads it again... Not all of us have that luxury.

Maureen McGowan said...

After I read that Stephen King book I was such a big believer in the behind-closed-doors-rapidly-written first draft. It worked really well for me once...

But Stephen King doesn't write series, does he... I'd bet he'd change his tune if he was tackling a series.

Plus, as we all know, there's more than one way to skin a cat. (Yuck.)
He rewrites a lot. I think he also says that he doesn't know what a book's about until he's written the first draft, let it sit for a few months and then reads it again... Not all of us have that luxury.

Amy Ruttan said...

You know what scares me ... I've been reading JR Ward's Insider guide and her outline for one book in her series can be like 60 pages.

EEP. Mine are not even close. I feel like I'm lazy.

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