Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Revision FAQ: How did you get so organized?

I've been getting a couple of the same questions over and over since I posted about revision (some from last year, and some since yesterday), and I thought--hey, I should do a couple of blog posts on that!

So, here's the first and most frequent FAQ:

How did you get so organized?

I have a theory: whether you're a pantser or a plotter, you've got to have at least one stage of your writing that is terribly organized.

Plotters make organized outlines (hence why they are plotters). They have lovely index cards with themes and characters and whatever, or they use Post-Its to plot the novel, or they just have a lengthy outline that they can use as a map for when they write. Whatever. They have something.

But I'm a perennial pantser. When I write, I've got nothing except whatever ideas are floating in my head. I'm the most unorganized first drafter ever. I throw together words all willy-nilly on the screen. I start one thread, get bored or forget about it, and start another thread. There's a whole subplot in my current rough draft that I just dropped about halfway through the book.

But since I'm so unorganized in drafting, I become ridiculously organized in revising. Writing is a two-step process: writing and revising. I think every writer needs organization in at least one of these steps--either you have an organized way of writing and then you have a fairly simpler revision process, or you have an unplanned writing style that must then be organized in revision.

What do you think? Is writing a two-step process that requires one step (at least) to be organized? If so, where are you organized--in writing or in revising?


Tahereh said...

i think that makes a lot of sense, actually. i'm a pantser, too, in that i never ever outline or have any real idea where the story is going -- but i edit as i write, and i always write linearly. my first draft is always a solid, cohesive finished product. i find it's much easier (for me and my brain) to revise that way.

it's always so fascinating to see how other people work, though! thanks so much for sharing your process -- i've learned a lot :D

best of luck with everything!
i can't wait to read your book!


Susanne Winnacker said...

I always write a synopsis/outline before I start a new project. That doesn't mean I always follow it, but it makes me feel better to know that I have a plot and know where it's going.

KT said...

I usually outline everything I want to accomplish before I write it. And when things change, I change the outline to go with it. I always manage to get stuck after a scene and not know where to go next, which is why I keep my outlines up to date.

Which makes for messy revisions. Post-its and pen marks everywhere! Can't tell what was done from what wasn't!

Lindsay said...

I'm inbetween organised and pantser. lol. I have the beginning, middle and end in my head for writing. After that, I connect the dots.
I'm with you on being organised during revision though. :)

Marcia said...

I'm a pantser, and my revision is more organized. But I'm experimenting with shifting a bit more of that organization to the first draft.

IanBontems said...

I'd say I'm a little of both. I wish I were more organised, but my outlines get to a certain stage and then, wham! I discover I'm into writing the first draft .
As for revising, a little bit more so, but not with a hugely structured plan or anything.

Kelly Polark said...

I'm a little of both. I organize in my mind first, then pantz it for the rough draft, but I do make some notes along the way. Then more notes as I revise and revise and revise.