You've all heard how JRR Tolkien just sat down and started writing The Lord of the Rings without really knowing where he was going with it. My question is, has anyone here ever done the same?
Way I figure it, there are three ways one can write. One is to sit down and start with little to no idea of where you're going.
Another is to have a general idea of what you want to do but to more or less let the story write itself following your general plotline.
The third would be to have an outline of some sort.
Has anyone ever chosen the first or second option, or do you require an outline before you begin?
I'll start: I started out the first way, but very shortly the rest of the idea formed in my head. I'm still not an outline guy, though, because I think I would spend so much time and energy on the outline that I wouldn't end up with time to write the actual book. Not only that but I love to see how my idea mutates itself as I write it. It's so cool to sit back and look at what you just wrote and go "Holy crap! I never expected that!"
June 12th, 2007, 08:53 PM
I'm too much of a control freak for the first option. I prefer the third, but I occasionally resort to the second (as I'm doing with my SF novel).
There are enough natural developments in the plot (along with spontaneous bursts of inspiration) to keep me pleasantly (and sometimes unpleasantly) surprised while I'm working on a story, regardless of how thorough my pre-production work is.
June 12th, 2007, 11:10 PM
Well, actually, Tolkein didn't just wing it. He had entire languages made up, hoards of notes of both research and his own creations for the idea of Middle Earth that he'd put together over the years, and, in writing a sequel to The Hobbit, he put all of that to work.
But there are authors who do wing it. There are authors who don't revise. There are authors who do 100 page meticulous outlines. Most people do a mix of pre-planning, planning in process and winging it. Me, I started out winging it, but at a certain point, I had to start figuring out where things were headed down the road and figure out what bits of research I wanted to use when, so that I wouldn't forget them. So now there's an outline in my head, a sort of outline on paper of notes and a lot of winging it which has now boxed me into a corner so I've got to reconfigure a setting.
June 12th, 2007, 11:24 PM
I begin with very little idea of the whole story, but with a solid picture of an intriguing scene (to me anyhow). As I finish the exposition-part, I begin building the world, plot, characters, etc.
June 13th, 2007, 12:25 AM
A lot of times I'll start out winging it, I'll start out with a interesting sentence, or a scene, and build on it. Somewhere along the line I'll develop a direction. I'll build on that for a while, and when I get to know what the story is, I'll do lots and lots of editing.
That's the short version. Needless to say, I have a huge amount of little parts on paper or pixel, that really went nowhere.
June 13th, 2007, 03:01 AM
when it comes to the writing, i take the second option
but when it comes to world building, everything is drawn out, outlined, detailed and filed away
June 13th, 2007, 07:27 AM
Well, actually, Tolkein didn't just wing it. He had entire languages made up, hoards of notes of both research and his own creations for the idea of Middle Earth that he'd put together over the years, and, in writing a sequel to The Hobbit, he put all of that to work.It's true that he'd done all that work, but he wasn't sure what he was doing it for. But you are correct that he didn't sit down with absolutely nothing at all.
June 13th, 2007, 09:53 AM
I've read a very good biography of Tolkien, and the impression that I got was that he more or less did wing it with The Lord of the Rings.
By all accounts, Tolkien set out to write a sequel to The Hobbit (as requested by his publisher), which is why the book starts with the birthday party and is written in a light tone. Before long the book took on a life of its own, and Tolkien apparently struggled with the story because he was caught in two minds and was not sure where it was going. The fact that Strider was originally called 'Trotter' and was a hobbit, is just one indication that the original intention was to write a story more in the vein of the Hobbit. One of the reasons it took Tolkien many years to complete LOTR was because he kept working himself into corners and was unsure how to progress. Some of his correspondence from these years backs this up.
Of course, there's no denying that he had reams of background history to draw upon, but it seems that he had little idea of where he was going with LOTR, even when he was halfway through writing it.
June 13th, 2007, 01:25 PM
Let's have a poll -- how many folk have at least in part a small scraps of paper system going on their novel? :)
June 13th, 2007, 02:07 PM
'tis all in the head. Might have paper stuff after draft 1; never been there, so don't know.