I’ll be honest with you. I’m not a meticulous planner when it comes to writing. I’m more of a seat-of-the-pants kind of guy. I put down what seems right and move on. I like to have a short outline so I know where I’m going, but I fill in the details as I go along. The only times I’ve done detailed, chapter-by-chapter outlines were when an editor or publisher demanded it. I’ll sometimes move scenes around later on to make them come together better, but most of the time I’ve been lucky and things have worked out okay the way I wrote them to start with.
Because of that, I like to think that I’ve developed a pretty good instinct for whether or not something is working. I started a chapter today and knew exactly what I wanted to do. But as I went along, I started to think, “You know, I’m not sure about this.” But I plowed ahead anyway because, well, that’s what I do. I wrote the whole chapter and told myself that I might have to do a little rewriting when I pick it up again in the morning. Then I went out to take the dog for a walk.
By the time I got back, I knew I had to start over in the morning.
Most of the chapter is okay, but it’s in the wrong place. It needs to come along a couple of chapters later in the book. Also I need to cut out some of the telling and do more showing. But most of it is salvageable, thank goodness. I don’t like to throw out a whole day’s work. So I’ll back up in the action, and we’ll see how it goes.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that everyone has their own approach to writing and their own techniques that work for them. That’s why whenever I talk about writing, I tell people, “This is the way I do it, but it may not be the best way for you to do it.” That said, I also believe there are a few universal truths about writing, and this is one of them:
When every fiber of your being is screaming, “No, no, no!”, you’d be wise to listen to it. It’s probably right.
A Movie Review by Dan Stumpf: CRY DANGER (1951).
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