Organic. Or maybe not.

Helga’s Post # 9 — The 5 writers are playing their cards close to their chests. You, our followers, know as much of our stories as we do, the 5 intrepid muskateers. All we have shared until now is about the process of meeting our formidable deadline, February 5, for producing a total of 5 brand new novels. So here is my humble progress report.

Since my last post (the ‘Rotten Tomatoes’ award for authors), I have had fun planning and in fact starting to write my brand-new novel. If you have followed our blog, you may recall the idea for my story was conceived a mere week ago.

So what am I doing, actually writing, while some of us are still outlining or plotting? Am I doing myself a huge disservice by overriding the outline process?

I have tried the ‘O’ approach on my previous attempt to writing a novel. The result? No matter how diligently I put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, nothing came of it. Oh, the outline looked beautiful, chapter by chapter, a linear roadmap of where I need to go and to point me to the final destination. I spent an inordinate amount of energy and time on that outline, but…

And then something strange happened. Or rather, did not happen. Almost two months had flown by and I had not started Sentence One of Chapter One. I had simply lost interest in the story. My passion had evaporated. My characters had stopped talking to me. My friends and family asked me what my novel was about. It was my response, somewhat incoherent and a little defensive, that told me I had to let it go. I knew then that I wanted a different story, one that readers can actually enjoy, rather than feeling grossed out over it.

I planned the new story in my head. Before I knew it, I had a chapter written. And a second one. Without the crutch of an outline. With only a vague one that exists in my head. I fear that I will regret it later, when I have to toss out page after page, and spend tons of time revising. But I needed that initial jolt to get me into the story and start that intimate relationship with my characters to propel me forward. I owe it to my characters who have strained on the leash too long.

I am wondering whether personality has something to do with what kind of writers we are. Like half of us are Type A (roughly speaking) and the other Type B. The spontaneous and outgoing, versus the well-organized and restrained. So, perhaps just as you can’t squeeze toothpaste back into the tube, it may be impossible to tether a Type A person to an outline. Or to have a Type B write organically, without an outline.

For those writers among us who are not quite sure in which camp they belong, mind-mapping may be an alternative. How does it work? You can find a simple sketch, courtesy of It explains it as such:

‘A mind map is a diagram for representing tasks, words, concepts, or items linked to and arranged around a central concept or subject. A mind map uses a non-linear graphical layout that allows the user to build an intuitive framework around a central concept. A mind map works in line with your brain’s natural way of doing things.’

And the point is? All roads lead to Rome. Hopefully to creating some damn good stories for our readers. Five good stories. For now, I’ll accept all the help I can get to deliver my fifth of the whole. Even from unorthodox sources, like this:

Backyard visitor helping me to concentrate.


4 thoughts on “Organic. Or maybe not.

  1. Bravo Helga – like you I’ve found myself having to dive in without an outline. Just couldn’t get into it. I will say I have a better idea of the shape of the plot than I did for my first endeavour though, so hopefully won’t wander into so many blind alleys as I did with “Bridge”!

  2. I was taught how to outline in the fourth grade. It made perfect sense, but I couldn’t use an outline or work from it, even when my young mind was supposed to have been forming and easily shaped. Now I’m 66, and nothing’s changed; it’s utterly wasted effort.

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