Rambling thoughts on writing from a rank amateur with little credibility

For as long as I can remember, I’ve never really gotten a strong idea about a story idea and thought, “I need to outline this right away!”

Now, this may come as a complete and total shock to those of you that know me, but I’ve never really thought through a lot of things before acting upon them. It happens in a variety of circumstances.

  • Mo, come to this after bar party out in the middle of no where. No, you don’t have to drive, we’ll get you there and back.
  • Mo, have another shot.
  • Mo, that 500 pound linebacker said you’re a dork, go tell him off.

The same thing happens in my writing. Ever since I was a kid in high school and started writing stories, every time I would start penning a new tale it was because one image would leap into my mind. I often wouldn’t even have a full story idea or plot in my head, I’d have one image or one ‘anecdote’ in suddenly form in my head and I would then try to write an entire book (because the idea of a short story never really occured to me when it should have) based off of one tiny little idea. Eventually, the weight of the goal would prove to be greater than the meager foundation and within a few chapters the whole thing would crumble to the ground.

With that in mind, I often still start stories based off of one little idea. I’ve refined that quite a bit over the years. On one hand, I’m embracing short stories more and have penned a couple and am in the middle of one right now. On the other hand, I will now thresh out these ideas in my head (often in bed as I’m drifting off to sleep which is its own problem) so that when I actually sit down and start writing I know where I’m going and essentially know how I want it to progress and/or end.

But I still don’t outline. I like having that bit of freedom and keeping it loose as I go. While I’ve never been one to sit down and do “stream of consciousness” writing, I like having the flexibility for my stories to take on a life of their own and see where my own ideas will take me without me even knowing sometimes. For instance, right now I’m working on a short story and I had it almost all figured straight out in my head how would go. But now I’m sitting here writing and an idea leapt into my head and kind of changed things a little bit. I can now just roll with it and incorporate it into the story without changing the whole thing.

When I’m writing a detective or mystery story I almost prefer it this way. I try to validate it by saying that this how Raymond Chandler did it; he would never outline his stories. What is appealing to me about this is often times, I don’t know how it’s going to end. A detective story is a whodunit. What makes a whodunit so appealing is figuring out (duh) whodunit, and that’s what makes it so fun for me to write. Now, the other side of that blade is sometimes that leaves me in a dead stop for a month because I can’t figure out whodunit so I can’t take it any further.

This double edged sword is what gets me going, but what also makes me so angry and bitter and questions anything resembling talent that I may or may not have.

That’s when I turn to the booze, because that’s what writers do. At least, that’s what I’ve picked up from noir films.


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