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Organize your writing

Organize Your Writing

Staring at a blank page is dreadful for a writer. The question, “What will I write?” is really not a problem. It’s the question “How do I start?” that matters.

Most of us often underestimate the planning of things because we’re obsessed with the goal. We have the clear picture of the end product but we don’t have a detailed plan on how to get there.

However, we also believe that planning is needed but to what extend do we believe that statement makes each of us different. Some would go for the general planning while others go for the much specific plan. In the end, we all believe that once the stage is set and everything is in place, we’re ready to go.

Let’s Start Organizing

So how does a writer organize his or her writing?

  1. RESEARCH. First things first: gather and organize the raw materials. Having all the research notes and reference materials at hand before starting saves a lot of time.
  2. OUTLINE. Next, sorting the materials into an outline will not only gives ideas but also provides an organization for us to fill in the details.
  3. DECIDE THE ORDER. Now that we have an outline, decide on what order are we going to cover the subject. Here are a few ways to do it:
    1. Chronological — the best bet for story telling: a beginning, a middle, an end.
    2. Synthesis — this is usually used in essays: from general to specific
    3. Spatial — this is usually used for descriptive writing: from left to right, top to bottom, exterior to interior, etc.

A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end… but not necessarily in that order.Jean Luc Godard

However, flashbacks, reverse orders, and flash forwards have became common that others tempted to follow suit, too. But before doing that, be comfortable with the sequence first and try to check if they’ll work. Don’t forget that readers have to start somewhere, follow a path, and reach a clear ending.

Final Thoughts

Don’t worry about putting too much details. Be like a sculptor. Have the basic rough form first, and eventually chip off the things you don’t need until you come up with a work of art.

But before I end this, don’t forget to give proper credit where credit is due. So if you have sources that require permission or acknowledgment, list them down and keep them. Don’t discard your raw materials too soon. You’re going to return to consult these during the editing and revision processes. Dispense them only when you have the published work in your hands. Or better yet, keep them for future references.

genre

Genre

When we say genre, the first thing that comes into our minds is category. True, genres are categories of literary compositions. Each genre is determined by technique, tone, content, and even length.

The criteria used to divide literary works into genres are not consistent. It changes constantly and it’s even a subject for debate among literary scholars, authors, publishers, and critics.

Just see how literature as an art is divided into something like this:

1. Poetry

a. Lyric

(1) Song
(2) Ode
(3) Ballad
(4) Elegy
(5) Sonnet

b. Epic
c. Dramatic

(1) Comedy
(2) Tragedy
(3) Melodrama
(4) Tragicomedy

2. Drama

a. Tragedy
b. Comedy

(1) comedy of manners
(2) sentimental comedy
(3) burlesque comedy
(4) satirical comedy

3. Prose

a. Fiction

(1) Classic
(2) Crime/detective
(3) Drama
(4) Fan fiction
(5) Fantasy
(6) Historical fiction
(7) Horror
(8) Humor
(9) Mystery
(10) Realistic fiction
(11) Science fiction
(12) Short story
(13) Suspense/thriller
(14) Western

b. Non-fiction

(1) Autobiography
(2) Biography
(3) Essay
(4) Journalism
(5) Lab Report
(6) Memoir
(7) Narrative nonfiction/personal narrative
(8) Reference book
(9) Self-help book
(10) Speech
(11) Textbook

You might have noticed that a few genre overlap with another or the distinctions between them are thin. For example, crime/detective can also be mystery or suspense/thriller. Yet, their definitions differ and some scholars have made distinctions between each genres and subgroups.

Some people tend to use age categories as genre. In bookstores and libraries, literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, or children’s.

Genre must not also be confused with format, such as graphic novel or picture book.

Also, literary techniques should not be confused with genres. These techniques may be loosely defined like any genre but they are not the same. Examples are parody, frame story, constrained writing, stream of consciousness.

On this site, we focus on a specific genre: crime fiction. It is defined as the literary genre that fictionalizes crimes, their detection, criminals, and their motives.

But what distinguishes crime fiction from the other genres like mystery and suspense/thrillers? We will discuss this on my next blog.

fiction

What Is Fiction?

When we say fiction we mean any story created by the writer’s imagination. Since it is a product of the imagination, it maybe or not based on history or fact.

In its original form, fiction refers to the major literary narratives. We refer them to as the novel, novella, short story, or play. Nowadays, fiction appears in various formats: writings, live performances, films, television programs, and games.

Since fiction involves creative invention, readers don’t assume its faithfulness to reality. Readers don’t expect factual characters or descriptions. This makes fiction open to interpretation even if it claims to be, or marketed as, “historical”.

This also makes the distinction between fiction and non-fiction thinner. Hence, we hear the term “creative non-fiction” these days. The thin line between the two may be defined from the perspective of the audience. If its people, places, events are all factual and real, it’s non-fiction. If it deviates from any of the elements, it’s fiction.

What we can distinguish is how a fictional work grounds on reality. A story is realistic when its basic setting is real and the possibility of events to happen in the world we live in. A story is non-realistic if it is set in an imaginary universe, or in an alternative history or timeline, or in some non-existent location or era.

In short, fiction is both artifice and verisimilitude. It requires both creative invention and a degree of acceptable truthfulness. Thus, the notion of a “willing suspension of disbelief”. Fiction brings the possible and the impossible together.

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.Mark Twain

How do you define fiction?

DEAR IN SETS modes of writing

DEAR IN SETS

The title of this article, DEAR IN SETS, may mean nothing to us. Actually, that’s an acronym I used to remember the different fiction writing modes or forms of expression.

Just like essay writing, it has EDNA. No, not a woman but an acronym for its main writing modes: Exposition, Description, Narration, and Argumentation. However, since we’re dealing with fiction, which is a form of narrative, let me explain to you the different modes of fiction writing in DEAR IN SETS.

When we say modes or forms of expression, it is the way we write or present the story. Each mode has its own set of conventions on how, when, and where we should use it in writing. However, there is no consensus within the writing community regarding the number and composition of fiction-writing modes and their uses. But for me to remember these modes, I will use the acronym DEAR IN SETS.

D – Description

This mode transmits a mental image of an element of the story. One of the most widely recognized modes of fiction writing, description brings life into a scene by carefully choosing and arranging words and phrases to produce a desired effect.

E – Emotion

This mode conveys the feelings of the character. Emotions can make or break the relationship between the character and the writer. Connecting the character to his own emotions allows the author to connect with the reader on an emotional level.

A – Action

Action demonstrates events as they are happening in a story. It helps the readers feel as if they were participating in the plot.

R – Recollection

This mode allows the character to remember details or events. It helps writers to convey the backstory or any useful information from the past or before the story began. Although recollection is not widely recognized as a distinct mode of fiction-writing, it is a common tool. Some say that Recollection should be considered a subset of Introspection. Others say that its role in developing backstory separates it from the other thoughts of a character in Introspection.

I – Introspection

Also known as internal dialogue, interior monologue, or self-talk. This mode conveys the thoughts of a character, allowing the expression of normally unexpressed thoughts.

Introspection may also be used to:
*enhance a story by allowing the character’s thoughts to deepen characterization
*increase tension
*widen the scope of a story
*play a critical role in both scene and sequel

N – Narration

This mode shows how the narrator communicates the story directly to the reader.

S – Sensation

This mode portrays the character’s perceptions. It helps the reader feel the actual sensations of things comprising the story. Since the reader can only use the sense of sight, this mode allows the writer to provoke recall from the reader, or convey the experience. This draws the reader in and maintains his interest in the story.

E – Exposition

This mode simply conveys information. Exposition may be used to add drama to a story, but too much exposition at one time may slow the pace of the story. Show, don’t tell, they usually say. (But that’s another article.)

T – Transition

Transitions in fiction are words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or punctuation that may be used to signal various changes in a story, including changes in time, location, point-of-view character, mood, tone, emotion, and pace. This mode allows the writer to move from one scene to the next, or one chapter to the next, etc.

S – Summarization

Also called the narrative summary, this mode condenses events to convey, rather than to show, what happens within a story. The “tell” in the axiom “Show, don’t tell” is often in the form of summarization. As I’ve said, this will be another topic.

Given these modes of fiction writing, I’m sure you have tried all of them in your novel. Have I missed anything?

Tuhog

Tuhog

Tuhog

In Filipino, the word tuhog means to fasten in a skewer. However, in fiction, it means to put and connect things to form a complete whole.

I remember two Filipino films both entitled Tuhog.

One made by Jeffrey Jeturian and stars Ina Raymundo. I had the chance to see this film on a special advanced screening back in 2000 at the UP Film Center.

The other one stars Eugene Domingo which I haven’t seen yet but I will someday… soon. As what I’ve seen in the latter’s trailer, it is about three different and separate stories that are connected in an accident. It follows three different stories running parallel to each other in one single movie.

I remember writing my first screenplay, Sa Likod ng Puting Uniporme. The original concept has three different stories that would run in three days in a hospital. However, our mentor during the FDFPI Screenwriting workshop, Nestor U. Torre, suggested to make it 5 stories and he added two more interesting characters (an OB-Gyne who can’t have a child was one). He challenged me to finish the screenplay as my requirement for graduation and if possible, to enter it in the contest. I obliged and the rest was history.

Writing more than one story running parallel with each other is a challenge.

You have to find a good junction where they would merge into one to make a compelling story. In the case of Tuhog, it was the accident. In the case of Sa Likod ng Puting Uniporme, it was the hospital setting.

And once you have a common link between the different stories, you start to plot and position each event in some particular order to determine how you will tell the three or more stories as one whole.

Incidentally, I used the same method when I wrote The Vixens. The stories of six different women run parallel to each other and the common links are their high school reunion and some episodes of their lives.

I usually create a table where I would list the different plot points in the first column (the trigger, the turning points, the midpoint or the point of no return, the climax, the denouement, and the end). Each column after that would be the different characters or stories (story 1, story 2, etc.). And then I start to plot down the points where these should be. Once I’ve laid out the plan, I start writing scene by scene.

It looks easy at first, but when I came down to writing, it became harder. Somehow, the characters have lives of their own that move the story forward to where I didn’t plan it to be. I just have to trust my gut feel. The ultimate goal is to create a whole story ready for grilling, a secured skewer, in Filipino, tuhog.

How about you? Do you have stories that could be joined by one element like a theme, a place, or an event? Have you tried this technique before? If so, how did you do it?