Scott D. Parker
Thirty-six days ago, I made a commitment: write some amount of prose everyday. And, to date, I have a 36-day writing streak. Some days, I crested one thousand words, others, a mere paragraph or two. I wanted to create the habit of writing, to create that yearning to know that, even if it's 11pm at night, I still have one additional item on the to-do list. So far, that impetus has succeeded.
I also wanted to test out something: could I write a short story (or novella as the word count is expanding) with only knowing how the story starts and, more or less, how it ends. Many writers write their tales this way and I wanted to give it a go in a smaller, contained piece. While the story does feature my railroad detective, Calvin Carter, I am consciously trying something different: a more traditional style of story. Less of a shoot'em up and more of a brain thing. Who knows how it'll turn out. Maybe I'll go all pulp in the rewrite and strip out all the boring parts.
During the writing, I've struggled with how the story should play out. In the first week, I even changed narrators and that was an interesting experience. It was the only day in which I went "backwards"--that is, did some rewriting--but I have not done any since. Forward, march, as they say. More than once, I wanted to stop the writing and plan out the rest of the story. For this story, I resisted. I wanted to see how it played out.
The time to write has varied. The week between Christmas and New Year's was great. I was on vacation and each morning I'd get up at my usual work time (6:00 am), grab the coffee, and start typing. Once the usual workdays started up again, that went out the window as did the nice large chunks of word counts. I also miss my morning writing times, being forced, by all that the day requires of me, to start writing around 10:00 pm.
And here's where I get to my issue with outlining versus "just seeing where it goes." I start getting tired around that time even though I usually stay up until midnight. My day job blew up this week and has required me to work into the night, including participating in conference calls. The last thing I want to do is write a few lines or pages. I have, and it is in these times I've struggled the most.
You see, when I outline and map out the story, I put all the information on notecards. When it's time to write, pick up the next notecard and just write that scene. Easy as pie. Now, on some nights, while I don't experience writer's block--I know generally what's coming next--the flow isn't there. While I know what to write, I don't always know what to write. Yes, that does make sense. Additionally, with the structure in place, when life throws you for a loop, you can hang your writing self on the structure and use it to get your writing habit back in order.
I'll finish this story in the manner in which I started it: just seeing where the story leads me. Or: since I have this idea for an ending, I'll see if I get there or not. But I'm pretty confident that once I type "the end" on this story, I may go back to the structure that I know.
Do y'all ever try to write something in a way definitely different that your usual method? Have y'all had success?