Saturday, April 17, 2010

O is for Organization

I often wonder how people go about the business of writing their books. How do you "O" is for Organize your story before you write? If you could peer into my workspace via the computer screen you'd see sticky notes, binders, resource books, and well...just a bunch of stuff. 

I have a critique partner who writes using the SOTP style...Seat-of-The-Pants. Apparently she just sits at the keyboard and starts typing. Being utterly too type 'A' and controlling I watch in horror as she highlights and deletes chapters at a time without the slightes hesitation.  She, on the other hand, can't understand all of my outlines and lists and plot blocks.

This got me wondering about the different writing styles out there. Do the Organization types match up with genre?  Are the fantasy people total intuitive storytellers, while the romance/suspense schlumps in my corner plot and nail bite?  I decided to do some digging into styles of organization to see if I'm missing something.

My friend's style is found throughout the interweb. Sites and contests like, NaNoWriMo, and WRW, World Romance Writers, holds a Book-In-a-Week contest the third week of every month. Just email:  to join the group. Both of these approaches favor quantity first, then quality as the finished work is edited and pared down.  Not my cup of tea, but it seems to work the world over because it is by far the most popular style.

The next one I'll talk about is the one I use. It's called the Snowflake Method. I found it on a blog written by a guy called Randy Ingermanson. It's methodical, disciplined, and fractal in its approach, and very solid. Since I started out as an outline type of person, this method works well for me. It also helped me get my out-of-hand sticky note problem under control.

A few critique partners from my online group said they use a method called  How-to-Write-a-Novel-in-Six-Months.  This style doesn't break down the novel itself so much as the time you dedicate to each step. I thought this was interesting because it had a bit of both of the previous styles. The structure and the freedom.

What type of style do you espouse?  Is it structural, more creative and brain-stormy, or a combination?  I'd love to know. If you do comment, please include your genre.

Until next time...Go Write!

Photograph by Muffet, Uploaded December 25, 2008. Photograph by @boetter, Uploaded on October 6, 2005.


Grammy said...

Hi, Raquel,
I am afraid I am a seat of the pants writer, I just sit down and start thinking and the words just seem to flow from my head to my fingers, (and I guess sometimes it seems like that when others read it, ha)
But after I write it, I let it sit a few minutes and then go back and read it. That way I see flaws and the wonderful way the computer works allows me to revise. The only thing is, I am not a published author, just a little old lady blogger who loves to share her ideas and thoughts with other people.

Slushpile Slut said...

Hey Raquel...My current genre is YA Historical Fantasy...I guess the process I'm using would be called "still writing this dang book after 4 years & 200 index cards". J/K Actually, I like to use scene mapping where I just have scenes that link to one another. This allows me some "seat of my pants" type writing along with using my index card info/research that I know for certain I want to include. I tried at first to be a seat of the pants type writer and really found myself wasting a lot of time and I'm not much of a planner so the scene mapping just works for me, least for now!

wolfie 402 said...

I'm a SOTP writer. Most of the time. Things just come to me like that. I'm more of a fantasy or sci-fi writer. I can't writer realistic fiction or anything like that. It'll just turn into fantasy. Or sci-fi. I try to stay organized, but I'm just not an organized person. I also don't try to writer when I'm bored or have no inspiration. That spells d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r.

Anonymous said...

Imagine the surprised look on my face when I found out that you were a Snowflake kind of gal! Nice exploration of methods. I'm not much of a writer, unless you count incident reporting, but I think I could see myself as a Snowflake writer too. Great post. -CF

arlee bird said...

Like your friend, I tend to be SOTP, with a bit a in my head planning. I start writing and research as I come upon something. I try to work out as much as I can mentally prior to writing so that the words seem to just spill out more. I also tend to do a great deal of editing as I go. Not sure if my methods slow me down, but I don't think so as I think it probably all evens out in the end.
I really should get more organized though--I've been working on it.

May 3rd A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post

Belbin9 said...

Hey, awesome blog! Writing is a very difficult thing, and for many people they have different styles and way of writing. Personally I just sit down and write, I don't plan at all, becaus in my opinion its all going to change anyways. Writing for me is a lot harder however. I lose track of how I am feeling and thinking at the time I am writing, so for me I have to write short stories that only take a couple hours to write rather than a novel persay.

Anonymous said...

My writing style is similar to Arlee's. I research as I come upon something. Its just my style that works for me.

Stephen Tremp

Elizabeth West said...

My genre is crime/thriller.

I would drive you crazy, because I abandoned writing in a linear fashion for a haphazard approach. I do outline sometimes and try to do a rough synopsis, but I like to write scenes as they occur to me, not in order. Then I cobble them together with transitions and such. Kind of like filming a movie!

That's the way that works best for me. If I start at the beginning, I sometimes get freaked by "how to begin?" and I don't get any work done.

Sydnee said...

Another seat of the pants writer here, at least for the first draft. I write romantic suspense also, and the first drafts of my manuscripts are always based on three or four sentence synopses, and that's it. I make up the bulk of it as I go.

And you're right - this method means there's a lot of quantity but little quality, but right now that works for me. If I spend too much time focusing on planning, I get discouraged and won't go through with it. After I finish my crappy first draft, then I outline and plot more meticulously, going back and polishing the parts that work and erasing the ones that don't.

I will check out that Novel in 6 months thing, though.

Tahereh said...

hey raquel!

this was a great post -- and an awesome question :)

i write YA and i'm a non-planner type. i just write until it all spills out, editing as i go. hehe i don't think i could ever outline a book.


thanks for sharing!!

Marjorie said...

I'm definately a Seat of the Pants type. I am not disciplined enough to do all that planning. I WANT to write a novel one day, but I find my creativity just flows better when I'm not being too organized about it.

Eric W. Trant said...

You hit on a key point: depends on the genre.

Fantasy requires plotting, believe it or not. You MUST build your world first, followed by the plot, or you will not succeed. This is especially true for hardcore fantasy such as Sci-Fi and elvin-type stuffages.

But if you're writing a character-driven plot, such as a general American fiction of a family facing hardships, no plot required. Create some characters, give em a hardship, and let em loose.

Same is true for supernatural books and horror. Scare em, then let em loose.

Romance, no comment. Never read it, never wrote it, but I hear they have stringent plot, character, and word-count limitations in that genre.

I function best with a loose mental plot. I write light fantasy, fiction, and it's been a while, but horror as well. I create characters, give em a situation, and let em loose.

I write down character names and places, and I'll jot down chapter headings as they come to me, but I keep the plot in my head.

Because I figure if it isn't interesting enough for me to remember, then it isn't interesting enough for me to write.

- Eric

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I am definitely more of a SOTP type of writer, but I'm learning to become more organized because I'm tired of the immense amount of editing that comes with being the former. I don't think I'll ever be a typical outliner, though. But I've recently written a synopsis for a sequel to a book in order to query the series, and it's actually made me really excited to write the book. I'm normally a fast first draft writer and a slow editor, but I suspect the synopsis will slow down my first draft, but hopefully speed up the editing.

That snowflake method sounds intense!

P.S. I homeschooled my daughter for 2 years. I absolutely loved it. Loved having her home with our second child. I'm amazed, though, that you can even find the time to write homeschooling SIX kids. It's so much work to homeschool! You are officially Super Mom and Super Writer. Looking forward to seeing you progress!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I'm mostly a seat of the pants writer, Raquel, regardless what I'm writing. I'm published in the mystery genre, but I also have a historical women's fiction manuscript ready for queries and I'm working on revisions for a standalone suspense novel. I've tried writing from a scene outline, but my characters never follow the plan -- one even dropped dead in the middle of a tense scene. :)

Mary McDonald said...

I'm a seat of your pants writer. Or at least I was with the first book, however, I had envisioned that story in it's entirety from the beginning. My WIP is much different, and I'm finding that I do need to sit down and plot it out.

I think I'll investigate a couple of the different options you suggested here.

Watery Tart said...

I fall in the middle somewhere, and it DEFINITELY depends on genre. If I have certain details I need to fit in at a certain pace (like with mysteries) then I need a TIMELINE. The timeline allows me to stick in the detail at the appropriate spacing, mark OTHER THINGS that affects, like "well then this had to have happened first" and then I can fill in all the OTHER details from my imagination as I go.

Most of my books though, fall more into 'suspense' and those I am looser on... I have a list of maybe a dozen things I want to happen and line 'em up, and then just write from one to the next. Anything tighter and it becomes work. Anything looser and I end up going off on tangents.