Donnerstag, 3. Februar 2011

How I write #1: Outlining

Outliner vs Non-Outliner

This actually became a serious question for me during the last months. A writer typically knows if he’s an outliner or not. And, to be honest, where is the border between making an outline and not?
I never outlined my work. I had an idea, wrote it down, worked it into the rest of the story. I never made notes, just pure creative wiritng. No planning, no further logical thinking required.
Then i had this fabolous idea for writing another novel. The idea came to me during studying about political issues in the media world.
That was quite different from anything I wrote before, because the world of media and PR is huge and filled with scientific texts. It never occured to me while i was in school, that somebody would make themselves serious theoretical thoughts about newspapers. As soon as I went to Uni, a whole new perspective opened up in front of me: I wanted to become a journalist. Now i want to become a researcher.
What i actually wanted to say: The idea for the new novel is based on a lot scientific literature which i have yet to read. This story will be based on a big research. Probably the whole idea which i had in the beginning will turn out to be nonsense, because the research prooved me wrong. Of course, this sounds like a awful lot of dry work to do, or better, an awful pile of non-fiction-books to read. I have to read this books anyway and this way I can take subjects into a whole new, wider content (and isn‘t that what learning and understanding is about? Being able to abstract situations and rules?)
But there is also the problem: I can’t just write and invent new stuff. I have to take the stuff I read and put it into the story and make it fit. Now, an outline seemed to me very pretty.

So I got myself a notepad and scribbled down all the stuff I wanted to have in the book and a first idea on how the story is supposed to happen. I also described the main charcters and other important stuff, like places. The book iss et in Vienna, where i live and so I take my notepad with me whereever i go to write down all the details i see and find helpful. For exmple, every day when i walk to work, I pass an awful old and shattered building (trespassers shall be butchered, meh =( ) called Sofiensäle. All the windows are literally wholes, the former lightpink paint isn't really left over and there’s lot of graffitti and trash. I think it’s pretty interesting and i could imagine it to become a setting for a scene.

I had never outlined a story before – that could be the reason for all the unfinished stories on my harddrive. Actually for the novel I’m soon going to finish, there never was an outline – the idea just formed in my head while i was writing and that was enough. The story is very loosely based on my own experiences and all the other stuff takes place in another world - which of course I am free to create.
Of course, also this can be pretty tough - it's hard to keep special things in mind all the time. The problem with creating a whole news society and culture, there will always be someone asking "Why is that so? Why do they do that? How come?" Of course, that's right. You can't just invent something illogical and say "It's that way. No discussion". Remember all the formulas in Math? There is a way to get to them, they just weren't invented, they were found, following strict and logical rules.
Of course, a society is not as easy and logical as Math. Can we explain all that happens around us? Why certain people act certain ways, do certain things? Why do we eat that sort of food? Why do we were that kindof clothes? When it comes to real life, the explanation "It's our culture" has to be enough. Nobody would aks "Why is our culture this way?" it just is. It developed and nobody can explain why it became that way and not totally different (considering there are always dozens of possible developments.)
When you write, prepare to be asked why the society you created in your story has this culture, these habits, those beliefs, this values. Why it developed that way and not the other. That might be the major problem in writing: In real life, not a single society had been formed by only one mind - when you write a book it in most cases is formed by only one mind.
And that is, I believe, a hell of a job.