New Ground

horses plowingFor the last year or so, I’ve been breaking new ground in my writing journey. I’ve been exploring the world of speculative or fantasy fiction. It’s been quite the adventure, stretching and challenging me like nothing I’ve written before, not even blogging.

It began as a challenge from my weekly writers group, the Solitary Scribes. I’ve mentioned them before. We’ve been together since early 2010, critiquing, brainstorming, teaching, and praying for each other. Two of the members write speculative. I had been writing primarily historical suspense.

These two challenged me to write speculative fiction. And I accepted. Not only that—I used the challenge to Challenges Road Signexperiment with the craft, to try things I’ve never done before.

The first was to write in first person. I usually write in deep third and in multiple third person. To write in first person led me to be more intimate with my character. It also meant I had to study other writers more to see how they approached it. I studied techniques for keeping the narrative varied and alive, how not to begin each paragraph with “I”.

And then, along about the third chapter, I hit a roadblock. I introduced a character and discovered she needed her own point of view and narrative thread. So do I write two first person point of views? Not sober. Now the story has first and third person narrators.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe second experiment I did was to write organically. All my previous novels were outlined. For one of them, I spent six weeks preparing the outline. Now, I’m writing without an outline.

At times, I feel like I am flying by the seat of my pants as my characters reveal more of themselves, the plot, and the story world on each page. I can’t wait to see where they take me next.

There have also been times when I’ve written myself into a box. I’d tell myself I wouldn’t be in this fix if I used an outline.

Praying through showed me a way to write myself out of the box. I free write possible solutions to the situation I’ve created, identifying potential scenes, new characters, surprise behaviors from existing characters, plot twists and other options. This free writing is a mini-brainstorming session. That one page of writing can carry me for hundreds of pages as the story continues to unfold.

Will I ever go back to outlining? I doubt it, at least not exclusively. The freedom of organic writing is addictive.typewriter 2 The free writing exercise helps to envision possibilities of what’s to come without locking me into a rigid outline.

Have you ever tried new approaches to your writing, breaking away from what you’re used to and comfortable with? How did that go for you?



4 Responses to New Ground

  1. TNeal January 15, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    Henry, I appreciate your fresh experience and what you’ve learned, and, at the same time, what I’ve learned through you. In reading Stephen King’s “On Writing,” I was surprised when he wrote of starting with an initial scene and seeing where it took him. At his prompting, I started with a scene and it opened up a story line I’ve yet to pursue beyond the first pages. Yet the story intrigues me. I’m curious to get to know the characters better, and I’m curious as to where they will lead me.

  2. Henry January 15, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for dropping by.
    Ray Bradbury is quoted as saying: First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!
    William Faulkner put it this way: It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.
    For me, the fun part of writing organically is seeing where the characters lead me. Sometimes, I’ll look back at what I’ve written and think, “There’s no way I could have outlined that.”
    May your writing be blessed.

  3. Amy Nowak January 22, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    I have never tried writing a solid outline, but a friend said I should, at the least, outline what I hope to accomplish in my writing for one day. I’m still a “panster” but this idea could clarify my goals. Thanks for this post!

  4. Henry January 22, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

    Hi Amy,

    Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your comment.

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