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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Amplitude Modulation? What Kind Of Writer Are You?


Dave Amaditz

I think it's important as a writer to be able to classify your writing technique. By that, I mean do you outline? Storyboard? Do you have the entire novel, characters, setting, plot worked out in so much detail that you don't need to outline or storyboard?

I've tried outlining and never made it much further than the first few chapters. On the surface, storyboarding looks great, having ideas and/or images for chapters and characters set up on a board in front of you so you can tell what scene a particular character has been in, what chapter and so on and so on. That didn't work for me either. It seems I spent more time on the storyboard than writing the novel. Plus, more importantly, when I began to write, my characters didn't always allow me to go in the direction outlined on the storyboard. Hence, all that work for nothing.

Perhaps none of those strategies work for you, either. Perhaps, you're like me and you know where the story begins and where it ends. The details, like chapter endings, character flaws, settings and personality traits are worked out while writing.

I let my characters guide me. It may sound crazy, but I can't do it any other way.

A story that follows a straight line from point A to point B is the ultimate goal when I write my novel. When reached, my plot and characters are consistent. They do not waiver from chapter to chapter, from beginning to end. However, my first drafts often resemble the image you may have seen in one of your elementary science classes about AM (amplitude modulation).

Sometimes my main character takes me on surprising journeys. He (no female protagonists as of yet) leads, and I follow, and because of that we end up a little off course, a little above, or maybe even way above the line. It is through those journeys that I learn so much more about him, the little nuances and idiosyncrasies that make the character more real, more believable. There are times he introduces me to another character and we dip below the line. That character may become part of the novel. They may even get temporarily left aside... for use in another novel, maybe?

My job is to make my story tighter, as close to the line as possible, like the image of the flatline below.
That only comes after many revisions, after learning more about how a character thinks and acts and relates to the others within the story. 

The current novel I recently finished has been through many drafts, six or seven or... more. Who's counting? (Not me anymore.) The first few drafts strayed far above and below the line. I've taken it as close to straight as possible, but welcome the chance to get it straighter with another round of revisions with an agent or an editor.

While waiting for that opportunity, I've begun a new novel. I know where I want the story to begin. I know where I want it to end. Although I'm trying to stay straight and true, I know I'll eventually deviate from the line. I know too, that this will help me to learn more about my characters. My only hope is that I can one day narrow down the amount of revisions it takes to write a straight line from point A to point B.

What kind of writer are you? I'd love to hear about your process.

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