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July 31, 2008

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R.J. Keller

When tackling short stories, I just let it flow. No plot outline at all, only vague ideas of who my characters are. Usually there's a Something that sparks me and I go with it, just as curious to see what happens next (not to mention how it ends) as I hope someone sitting down to read it would be. It usually works out pretty well, although editing obviously comes into play later on.

The first time I set out to write a novel, I knew I needed at least a little bit more direction, but I still didn't make an outline. I focused chiefly on characters rather than on a plot. I got to know them, on paper and in my imagination, then started writing. As I got to know them better, I realized what their fears were and set up situations that ran them head on into those things. Bam! Instant plot. Then I added other characters with opposing goals, fears, etc and bam! More plot.

Let me tell you, it was fun. And theraputic. But when I was done I had a big fat steaming pile of crap for a first draft, with only a few nuggets of stuff worth salvaging. I worked at it for another year before I dared to show it to anyone. When I did I took the criticism seriously and improved it. Did another six months of editing and voila! A novel was born.

However, now that I've been through that arduous process I've learned something: Outlines are my friend, at least when it comes to novels. Those outlines are always fluid, to be sure, but at least they keep me somewhat focused. And when I have those days where I say, "What if this happened instead of that?" I always write out both the This and the That and save both. That way the uber creative part of my brain can do its thing, while the slightly more sensible part can keep things under control.

Ooooh...long comment. Sorry!!!

Grant Stone

R.J.,

That's pretty much how I do it, too. The short stuff I can keep in my head, but I'm getting too old to remember the big stories.

P.S. I like long comments, Thanks.

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