In the beginning: Organic Writing

By Patricia Rice

Back in typewriter days, I started a book knowing nothing more than the characters and an inciting situation. I built on those, sentence by sentence—until I reached the middle, which would inevitably fall flatter than a cold soufflé for lack of structure.

Once I had deadlines to meet, it became obvious that I didn’t have time to muddle with the middle, I needed to learn plotting. But I’m an organic writer and my muse requires words on the page to create inspiration.

Thus became Pat’s Pathetic Plot Plan. Before I write that first opening sentence, I give the characters goals and internal and external conflicts. Preferably, since I usually write romance, the goals of the two protagonists will conflict. I give them fears to overcome, lessons to learn. And then I pound out two or three plot turning points that revolve around the conflicts and fears. Do not think these are profound, well-developed scenes. They resemble “Abe achieves partial goal and overcomes fear but realizes he needs Bee to achieve goal.”  I use more precise goals and fears, of course, but that’s the limit of my accuracy.

And then I write my first chapter which eventually gets thrown out when I realize the story starts elsewhere, but that’s another topic.




In the beginning: Organic Writing — 7 Comments

  1. So is this a dummy plot? Or more like a training plot, the basics but not very elaborate or difficult?
    Do you write it linearly, or do you hop around? When Margaret Mitchell wrote GONE WITH THE WIND, she had the key nodes of plot (the death of Frank Kennedy, etc.) written first. But she wasn’t all that clear how to get from node to node. The connecting stuff she wrote later.

    • It’s a Pathetic Plot. No more than a line or two. I really do need words on the page to grasp actual “plot.” As I write, ideas seep out of the cracks and spread across the page and when I’m really lucky, they flood the computer. When I’m not lucky, I go back to that PP and re-acquaint myself with my original intentions. Usually, I discover the flood has carried me astray and I have to go back a few chapters and yank things back within the riverbanks.

      I could not, by any means, follow Mitchell’s method. It would be nice to kill off characters and then write a reason for it! But I can’t, alas.

  2. Can you just lie to yourself and write in things like “And then the villain runs across the room with his beard on fire!” ? And when you get there, you deal with it then? Or is that just postponing the problem?