Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Filling in Holes

I realized last night, as I was revising (or procrastinating writing the next chapter), why I have such a hard time writing anything longer than a picture book in chronological order.  It's not necessarily a bad thing; instead of struggling with writer's block, I move on or work on something else.  Unfortunately, I leave holes to fill in later on.  Sometimes filling them in is easy, and sometimes adding a couple of hundred words is a struggle.  As long as I keep adding words though, I learn more about the characters and what motivates them. Those words may not make it through my next revision, but they add something to the story anyway.

When I was in college, I took a creative writing class where the main projects were writing a short story and a personal essay.  For the short story, our professor had us write about a decision we'd made.  Then he had us write the experience from someone else's point of view and fictionalize it.  Then he had us write through to the end of our story before he had us go back and write the beginning.  So, when I get an idea for a novel, I rarely start at the beginning.  I dive into the action.  I have to go back and set it up later, but I just write whatever scene comes to me until the plot starts to emerge.  It doesn't take long.  If I get stuck, I write background on characters to get to know them better.

It works, but I've been revising and filling in holes and revising the new stuff for the last third of my novel since October.  Of course, I took November off for NaNoWriMo, and I always binge read in December.  And then, there were all of those fun writing contest the first week in January.  But I've been working hard since then. Honest.  And I think the end is in sight.  I'll let you know when I get there.  It's kind of like Magellan finding the East Indies in this clip.

As for my inability to write a first draft from beginning to end, I'm blaming that one on the professor. ;)  


  1. I can't write beginning to end either. And sometimes I feel like the "hole-filling" takes twice as long as the initial scene-hopping.

    Even my PBs, I tend to write the beginning and end, then fill in the middle. Then change everything. :)

  2. See, I'm completely the opposite! I feel like I HAVE to write in chronological order with my first draft, or I'll have no motivation to go back and fill in the holes. I push through the boring stuff by telling myself, "Just be a good little writer and get through this scene, and then, in a chapter or two, you get to write this one!"

    Actually, I've never tried writing any way but sequentially. Like I said, I'm kind of afraid I'd write all the good stuff and then lose interest...

  3. Karen, I'm glad I'm not the only one. It does seem that way sometimes.

    And Krista, you didn't want to write boring stuff anyway! ;) Just kidding. I'm not recommending my method. Though, for the record, that professor was the best writing professor I had.

  4. For my first novel I wrote scenes that just kind of appeared to me and that I cold relate to in that moment but my second I found I was suddenly able to do things in order a bit more easily. However, now I am on book three and finding it really difficult to write everything in order because of how some scenes are just mellow and nice and others are scenes that really aim straight for the heart so since I am so ready to tackle the harder ones I am standing in my own way by trying to do it all in order. Well... that turned out to be a mini rant. Great post! *hides now*

  5. Thanks, Emma. It's fun to read about your process too. Thanks for sharing it. I tried to write my NaNo novel from beginning to end, and I couldn't do it. If I don't write the scene when it comes to me, I forget the dialogue.

  6. You're almost there!! You can do it!!


  7. I'm with you on the holes. I leave them in everything, including school papers, and then fix them later.

    And blaming the professor sounds pretty plausible to me :)