Monday, March 26, 2012

The Secret Miracle

I read the book The Secret Miracle over the weekend.  It was published in 2004 and is written by Daniel Alarcon.  It's a guide for the novelist, a handbook. 

It was written in an interesting way because it was actually just verbatims from different authors, like Steven King, answering questions about their writing styles and techniques.  The quotes are taken from when they were on different author panels.

I admit that I hadn't heard of a number of the authors but it included international authors, so I recognize the fault is mine.  I'm just not culturally diverse enough.  I don't usually read non-fiction unless it's about writing.  I don't usually read books that are written with the specific intention of making me cry.  I don't like all the drama.  I do like mystery, political thrillers, romance, chick-lit (if funny, not sappy), and YA like Twilight, Rick Riordan books, Hunger Games, etc. 

I found a couple of items really interesting in this book.  The first was that a large number of these authors did not do outlines.  At all.  And that the ones that did outline, acknowledged that the story never stayed true to the outline.  Many of the authors felt that outlining would take the fun out of the writing process and stifle the actual story. 

The second point was that although the authors tended not to outline, the majority wrote their novels in sequence.  A few authors bounced from a scene in the middle of the book to the beginning, etc.  But most authors wrote in sequence.  For those that wrote in sequence, many acknowledged that if an idea came for a scene that belonged later, they would capture a few code words on a slip of paper, etc. but they didn't dig into the details until it was time.

What surprised me the most was that many of the authors did not have a plan for their novel.  They might have had a feeling / picture about the main character, or they might have had a "what-if" they wanted to answer, or they had a particular scene they wanted to write about and the novel flowed from there.  Their plotting was evolving as it was written.

These comments from respected authors were really helpful to me because I have a character in my head that wants to do something but we don't know what it is yet.  I've been worried about making sure the plot is laid out and maybe what I should be doing is just writing and see where it takes me.  That's not really my personality so it's kinda scary.

What do you do?  Do you outline, plot everything out, write in sequence or jump around?  Let me know!