How much detail should go into the preliminary work of a story?
As profound and desirable as it may be, the way Jessica Fletcher, the main character in Murder She Wrote, could whip out her manuscripts on a word processor just is not going to happen in the world outside of the “boob tube”. Diversely, Jacqui Murray, blogger of WordDreams and author of numerous books for students, has spent years collecting her research and developing her most recent book, BUILDING A MIDSHIPMAN.
If I gave heed to the multitude of blogs giving advice on the craft of writing, I would probably have chosen, after consideration, to fall somewhere in between the fictional Jessica and Jacqui, more plausibly favoring Jacqui’s way of attacking her writing projects. Yet, as of late, I’ve come to recognize how much and how often my writing slouches when I make the severe attempts to use the constructed fundamental step of the development sheets and the outlines of the scenes. Somehow I lose my way and scramble to find the essence of the story I’m so perilously striving to pen. Moreover, all of the work going into the preparedness is forestalling the task I feel compelled to perform, writing something of substance.
Some may counter with the belief that the preliminary labor is just as valid. For those who honestly affirm this approach to their end, perhaps the work is necessary, if for no other reason than to give them the little boost of self-confidence that many writers lack—including myself. I’ve been told that the planning of the story and the development of the characters put these elements firmly in the mind so that the need to backtrack for information isn’t as prevalent. Okay, the plotters may have one up on me in this area.
Despite the obvious lack of assurance I suffer from, I prefer to be like the bull in a china shop, diving into the thick of my undertaking, not giving much caution to whether I’m stick to any original plan I made. The mere muse of conceiving worlds, characters, and scenes, to weave all about the crux of the story as I compose it is enthralling to me. When the words begin to appear on the screen or paper in front of me, the theme of the tale stays near the forefront of my mind. For me, it is absolutely riveting.
No. After hours of inward scrutiny and past desperate efforts to apply the mounts of groundwork that are not necessary for each and every story or writer, I’ve come to the conviction that such detailing doesn’t work for me.
It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop. ~Vita Sackville-West