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Old 11th Oct 2014, 03:41 PM   #1
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To all you writers...

Writing an absurdly long essay on Beat literature got me wondering, do most writers today emphasize spontaneity or favor more planned, thought-out writing? So for anyone who writes poetry, prose, songs, whatever it is, do you prefer to sit down and spit it all out or plan it carefully and work on it over a couple of days or weeks? Personally, writing to me seems like something that should be done all at once. Art in general actually. If the purpose of art is to capture and express feeling, and feelings are unique to the moment (as I believe they are), that feeling can only be truly described at the moment it's felt. At least that's how I see it. So, to any writers out there, what do you think?
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Old 11th Oct 2014, 04:00 PM   #2
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Re: To all you writers...

I've found that lengthy pieces work best when planned, and shorter stuff like poems can come off-the-cuff.

Beat poets like Kerouac were special because they could keep that spontaneous tone going over a long piece of writing. But unless you fancy yourself the figurehead of a new cultural movement, I wouldn't recommend trying it.
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Old 11th Oct 2014, 04:21 PM   #3
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Re: To all you writers...

The fan fiction stories I write are always on the go.. I usually have an idea of what of what I want to accomplish, but how I get there.. I just write it out as I go, the only things I plan out is if I need to research things like pregnancy or schools in America or medical issues, otherwise it's not a big work of plan.. It's all spontaneity.

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Old 11th Oct 2014, 04:45 PM   #4
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Re: To all you writers...

I believe it depends on what you are intending to accomplish with your writing.

For instance, there is an extreme difference between a poet who settles down to write about their raw emotions and a poet that intends to reflect on society, politics, or human nature. Whether you are meaning to convey messages explicitly or obscurely. Whether you are meaning to follow strict or random poetic structure, style, and rhythm. Whether your diction is meant to be natural or tactical and precises. In regards to fiction, writing without pause in a contemporary drama can sometimes come across as very genuine and moving. Writing spontaneously in high fantasy is pure suicide.

It is all a matter of intention. Some writers approach a work intending to discover the direction and meaning of the contents as they go along. Others approach a work with absolute certainty of the message that they are intending to convey towards readers and the experience they are meant to have. Personally, I am a planner and tend to prefer works from planners when it comes to fiction as well; however, my favorite genres to both write and devour always happen to be fantasy and mystery. You would be hard-pressed to find a lover of the mystery genre who wouldn't be extremely apprehensive from purchasing a thriller novel from an author who claims that they wrote the novel spontaneously; attempting to discover the direction the author is heading before they make shocking revelations. It is an expectation that mystery authors are all-knowing.

It is impossible to effectively foreshadow in any genre without being aware where the story is meant to lead, unless it is implemented after the work is complete. It is impossible to include meaningful symbolism without being aware of what the object is meant to symbolize. Writers who are intending to maintain focus on the bigger picture will do perfectly fine with rushing into things as they please; however, writers who write in specific fields or are just very precise in nature and put more thought into the microscopic aspects of a work couldn't get away with that. Regardless, there is something to respect on both sides.
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Old 11th Oct 2014, 04:58 PM   #5
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Re: To all you writers...

As an English major whose focus was writing, I found it to be a bit of both.

Poetry might seem the most spontaneous, but it's also a form where there's not much room for fluff; it's a distillation of sorts. I'd often write rough drafts pretty quickly, based on some image or metaphor that struck me, and just let things flow without worrying how good it was. Then came the revision, and in order to shape things so they have maximum effect, I found that I'd revise a piece 5, 10 even 20 times, before I was happy with it.

Fiction I find similar; I like to have the basic arc of the story in mind, but I'm not afraid to rearrange things as I go, even including where it starts and ends; I altering the time structure, or what the reader finds out, and when. (Flashbacks, cuts to scenes in the future, then the present &c.)

OK, an example: Here's a poem I wrote & revised about 10 times, and I'm still wanting to tweak a few things It's about the frustrations of a long, time-wasting, commute to a boring, low-paying job, a common fate for English majors:

30,000 Miles, One Way (Groundhogs)

I’ve come to expect less:
the accidents
cleared to the shoulder,
the twisted masses of steel and plastic,
the flashing lights.
the bodies carried off on stretchers
in the next lane over:
the line of brake-lights slowing,
tiny corpuscles
stretching into the distance of this clogged artery
where deer lay folded,
as if asleep,
their blood ticked across windshields,
or ground into the pavement like bruises,
the bright orange of fox fur
sending a sharp scent of decay
upwards to circling birds.

The groundhogs
watch from the sides of the parkway,
nibbling tender shoots,
as if laboring against this all
content merely to fatten themselves for their long sleep.

If I could stop
for one moment,
I would become them.

But instead
the need
the hunger
that is always there
pushes me up and down this same grey strip of pavement
in this tiny metal box,
bald tires,
the side mirror knocked off by the plow,
the engine misfiring,
a tiny vessel,
a clot waiting to gum up the works.

-© HuskyPup, 2014

A lot of the revision involves cutting out the extraneous, finding words that work btter, and, in general, making the piece more cohesive. I think writing often gives the impression of being more spontaneous than it is.

Dude! No way! I'm not gonna lick your moonboots!

Last edited by HuskyPup; 11th Oct 2014 at 05:06 PM..
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Old 11th Oct 2014, 06:25 PM   #6
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Re: To all you writers...

When I don't plan, what I write doesn't go anywhere. I start, get writer's block, and that's it. I have to have some kind of outline or plan to make it work. The key is not to become limited by the plan--the plan can change. But there has to be one in place for me to make my writing work.

When I wrote my novel, I decided that there were going to be 16 long chapters. I outlined the basic events of each chapter during the beginning stages of my writing. During the course of writing the book, that outline changed and some things were moved around and the chapters all ended up containing more than that I wrote in my outline. But the outline is what helped me continue to write the story.
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Old 11th Oct 2014, 07:11 PM   #7
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Re: To all you writers...

Yes I definitely just write. There's never any planning.

I could never plan put a song as they often reflect what I'm feeling at that moment.

As for my short stories, I tried planning twice and ended up scrapping both stories.
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Old 11th Oct 2014, 08:09 PM   #8
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Re: To all you writers...

To each their own. Seriously, whatever works for you.

Essays and research papers I tend to roughly plan out, whether it's in my head or on paper depends on the project. Short fanfiction and stories are mostly just off-the-cuff. I think of a rough idea and then I run with it. Sometimes that means I know where it's going and sometimes it doesn't. Novels I use a combination of both. I keep notes on future scenes and questions that need to be answered, but I just let the words flow out when it comes to specifics. I've tried writing strict outlines in advance but it takes all the fun and discovery out of writing.
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Old 11th Oct 2014, 08:38 PM   #9
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Re: To all you writers...

as people have already said, it depends on what ur writing, and who you r. i personally have to have a general idea when im writing a story, but the exact plan and individual details just vary day to day. same thing with a poem. i start with a single subject, and move from there. but if im doing an essay, i plan it out, to the last sentence. im a bit particular that way
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Old 11th Oct 2014, 09:45 PM   #10
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Re: To all you writers...

What I usually do is work out a framework when I have an idea so I have a basic structure to work with, and then I keep going back to it later and redoing bits of it. It generally takes me really long to complete anything because of this.
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Old 11th Oct 2014, 11:17 PM   #11
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Re: To all you writers...

essays/offical papers-planed
anything else- off the top of my head
Don't Worry

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Old 11th Oct 2014, 11:46 PM   #12
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Re: To all you writers...

I usually write with a vague idea in my head which I expand on whilst writing and pretty much every other time. While in the middle of a writing project it's the only thing in my head. Other than that, I don't tend to plan anything much.
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Old 12th Oct 2014, 12:37 AM   #13

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Re: To all you writers...

Gen covered it pretty well, I'd say.

Sometimes, I have an outline, and work around that. Other times, I just start to write, and see where that takes me -- then, sort of, make plans.

But the above is mostly with stories. With poems, it is usually a loose planning. I know what I want to write about, and some ways to describe it, but the exact word-for-word presentation of it is not painstakingly planned.

One interesting method is, write a first hand journal entry, and see if you can't develop a general idea or character. This has helped me, many times.
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Old 12th Oct 2014, 02:51 PM   #14
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Re: To all you writers...

For fiction writing, I think it's best to have some kind of plan before you start, otherwise you could get lost right in the middle of your story, with nowhere to go. It's like manoeuvring a bus into a tight space and then not having enough room to reverse back out of it again.

Mind you, Charles Dickens apparently did all of his planning in his head and he did alright for himself didn't he?
The Lion, the Witch and the Closet really doesn't have the same ring to it.
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Old 13th Oct 2014, 06:29 AM   #15
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Re: To all you writers...

It really depends for me. If I'm writing a long fiction novel (especially if it's in a different time, if it's sci fi, in a different universe/fantasy, etc) I plan out quite a bit beforehand (maybe some research as well) because it makes things so much easier when I actually get into it. I like to flesh out characters a bit before I start, sometimes extensively, sometimes not, because I feel like knowing my characters makes the writing much easier as well.

But most of the time I find that I really like to write when the inspiration comes to me; e.g. spontaneously. At times this works; I really use the emotion of the moment to finish it off (much easier to do this if it's a short story, or if it's a song, poem, etc), but for longer novels where it's more difficult to finish or get to the point in one sitting, I do still rely on the emotion but I try to have a basic plan as well.

Really depends. My ideas come spontaneously, and sometimes I write like that, other times I dedicate a looong period of time to a story with careful planning. I have so many that I'm working on simultaneously right now.
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Old 13th Oct 2014, 12:44 PM   #16
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Re: To all you writers...

It depends on what I'm writing. For example, if I was going to write a fantasy--hypothetical, as I would never in a million years write fantasy fiction of any sort--then I'd probably want to do some planning, figure out the characters, their backgrounds and traits, where they've been, where they'll go, etc.

But for my novel, which I've worked on for the past five years almost, is kind of a sit-down-and-let-it-pour-out sort of thing. It's autobiographical literary fiction, and progress comes in spurts when I'll get an image or a part of the story will hit me and 10k words will fly out of me almost faster than I can write them. Aside from a general concept of how the story will go, there's little to no planning for something like this, and that kind of spontaneity lends itself well to a story that's very psychological because it will read very sporadic and disjointed, like my character.

So it depends on what's being written and how you want it to read. And in my experience, books with more plot emphasis or with many characters are better executed when thoroughly outlined and planned, but if it's about one or just a few characters and is more of a character piece than "plotty" you can probably be more spontaneous as long as you really know your character(s).
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Old 13th Oct 2014, 01:11 PM   #17
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Re: To all you writers...

I usually plan, but plan flexibly. Sometimes magic happens between your outline and your actual writing, and you have to throw out your preconceived notions. The plan is usually just important near the beginning and end of the piece. The middle is a wild no-man's-land of ideas.

Oddly, my short writings usually get planned and edited and tweaked more than my longer writings. But either way, I like to at least have a starting point and a general direction in mind.

...Unless I'm intentionally writing something with a stream-of-consciousness POV. Then I mostly just let it flow. You don't always know where someone's brain is going until you set it free.
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Old 13th Oct 2014, 01:16 PM   #18
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Re: To all you writers...

Whatever you decide, just keep writing. The more you write, the better you will get at it. Of course, for things like poetry, it's a lot more important to choose words carefully unless you're writing something epic. Also, do lots of reading. Reading how others tell stories is a good way of finding what you like or dislike and what you want to emulate.
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Old 14th Oct 2014, 01:00 PM   #19
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Re: To all you writers...

A mix of both. Having a beginning, middle and end planned out to pieces of my story, with the bits inbetween left up to me helps. In other words, I know where I'm going and how to get there, but I have some wiggle room, and can take a detour if I want.
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Old 15th Oct 2014, 02:25 PM   #20
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Re: To all you writers...

For me, I usually plan just enough for a vague plot to form. Or rather, I get an idea and chew it over, refining it, until it becomes half a plot. If I plan too much, I'll trip about trying to stick to it, and my work doesn't go anywhere. Essentially, my initial plot idea is more of a jumping-off point.

So, I have no idea how the story I'm writing is going to end, and the best parts so far were never going to be in there at all. Much of the plot revolves around gags I think up in the middle, so I write as I go. It feels very much like I'm the reader, reading this book for the first time.
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