The creative process…linear v. circular?

chaos (2)Today’s post is inspired by several conversations I have had over the past few weeks about the creative process as it applies to both fiction and nonfiction.  For me, these are two entirely different realms I live in – and I approach the writing really differently (well, not as differently as I originally thought, it turns out).

Nonfiction is a very linear process for me.  That is, it moves in a line – like outlining.  Point A leads to point B and so forth.  I can write it in my sleep (assuming it is a topic  actually know something about), regardless of what’s going on around me or what I am listening to.  I think about the chapters in outline form, and write them the same way.  Sure I still have to edit and fine tune each and every chapter, but it is still a comfortable linear process for me.

Fiction is different.  I have to stew and mull before I ever write a word.  It seldom comes out in a particular order, and certainly not in a way that makes sense.  I typically start writing it, only to rework and reweave a million times before I am ready to show ANYTHING to ANYONE.  It is a very circular process for me.

Most of the time.

That is, except when I really have a NEED to flesh it out.

Then, I am back to an outline (very loosely) based on typical story boards ( you know, intro the protag and problem, create a crisis, etc).  With my current WiP, I started writing it as I did the first couple of books I wrote – circular fashion, write it from whatever scene is in my head, etc.  Before long, I got myself  tangled in the story and had to hack my way out.  Literally.  I deleted most of it and started again. 

But this time, I fleshed it out – stewing, running, researching, thinking and yes, outlining.  Then I rewove the storyline, pulling in some of the previously deleted scenes, moving things around etc.

The result – I am much more settled and feel I can write any scene I wish, and still know where it is going overall.  Whew.  (A settled Christine is a much better Christine, trust me…)

For me, I have to combine the circular and linear parts of my brain and create from there.

What about you guys?  How does your creative process work?

5 thoughts on “The creative process…linear v. circular?

  1. I’m writing a memoir, which is nonfiction but has to read like fiction, so it ends up being a bit of both! I’ve got a very linear outline, but I chip away at it out of order, circling from one scene to the other.

    Thanks for making me think about my process in a new way this morning!

  2. Dude, maybe this is my problem! I’m trying to write from start to finish and it’s just not coming! Maybe I should skip ahead to some scenes I know will be coming! You are a genius. *bows*

  3. We like to write from a pretty detailed outline, so we need to have everything worked out at the start. It takes us a while from thinking of an idea to starting the actual project, but with two people writing we have to be organized. Of course, we still end up doing a lot of revisions, but that’s typically after we’ve had betas point out particular issues and etc.

  4. I just write till I get stuck. I suppose it is pretty linear, but there is very little outlining or planning done (on paper) for my work. I do more thinking than paper outlining.

  5. I am very circular on this front! Rarely does the first scene I write turn out to be the beginning pages of my book. I just write what comes to me and it and shuffle along on my way. Later – much later usually, I go back and move things around and rejig the flow. I don’t think I could write anything starting at a page/chapter 1 and going until I reach The End… my brain doesn’t work that way. Maybe there’s something wrong with me?

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