Friday, August 28, 2009

It's Puzzle Building Without a Box Cover

As I start to put (yet again, hopefully for the last time) the finishing touches on my manuscript, I picked up a book I bought recently that is essentially a reference to all things fantasy.

In the introduction, hugely famous fantasy writer Terry Brooks writes about the importance of outlining, so that you can make sure you get your story right. He deemed this pre-writing part as "Puzzle-building without a box cover," and I really loved that phrase.

Because it's true. In all of our stories, we are pulling characters and plot points--the puzzle pieces--out of nowhere and trying to fit them together in a way that makes sense. When it's all said and done, we want to be able to glue those pieces together permanently and frame up that puzzle (or, preferably, to see it on a shelf in Barnes and Noble or Borders). The reason I love the box cover-less puzzle analogy is because it expresses how truly unique and challenging it is to write a good book. Imagine dumping a 10,000-piece puzzle of an ocean full of colorful fish on a table and trying to solve it with no point of reference. Daunting, huh?

You set out to completing it, though, because you've bought the puzzle (thought up a story you can't ignore) and feel it inside that this puzzle will not go away until it's finished. You start the puzzle and it's going great! You get all the outside pieces with the straight edges put together. Then comes the heart of the puzzle, and boy is it tough now.

Don't give up, though, because it's going to be a beautiful thing to see when it's all put together. Sure, there may be times when it seems like there's no way you'll get it done, and that the puzzlemaker must have forgotten to put several pieces in the box. And just when you're at your lowest and ready to tear the puzzle apart, your puzzle-friends will stop by on the weekends and solve a couple of pieces and remind you how awesome that puzzle will be when you get it done.

Kinda like writing. Everyone wants to give up at some point. Heck, J.K. Rowling almost committed suicide at one point. (Literally.) But then your family and other writer friends sympathize and encourage you, and maybe even solve a piece or two of that puzzle, and you keep plodding forward. So stick with it, because that puzzle will be something to behold.


storyqueen said...

Hmmm, Tyler, interesting point. I might argue that, for me, writing is more like finding those hundreds of puzzle pieces of colorful fish and deciding to make a collage or mosaic from them. I mean, I am creating the puzzle, so it really doesn't have to conform to the box cover the first time around.

(Then I can look at it and go,"Oh Gosh, what have I done???/)

Seriously, most of my ideas for a story occur in the throes of writing, not before.

Great post!


Tyler said...

Thanks, Shelley!

And that's interesting a very interesting point you make there. There are definitely 2 schools of writing: the "I must plan it out" and the "let's see where it takes me." I'm 100% completely the former, and any time I've tried to see where it takes me, I get COMPLETELY lost.

Plus, for me, the fun is all in the plannins.

Anyone else?? Plan or Play?

Hardygirl said...

I play as long as I can--always starting with characters and I see where they take me. Then when I hit a wall, I go back and plan (i.e. outline and give it some structure).

So, maybe I just start working on the puzzle first with no idea where it's going, and then I go back and try to find the corners, end pieces, pieces with sky, etc.

I had never heard that J.K. Rawlings tried to kill herself. Really?


Katie said...

Great post Tyler!

I love this image :-)

What about when you set out to put your puzzle together and then realize that it's not fish at all, it's horses. And you've been assembling it on the backside... yeah - that's where I've been. LOL

Tyler said...

SF - I love playing in the beginning, too. I'm a total brainstorming kinda guy. As for that writing, peh, who needs it? ;) And yeah, I heard from somewhere (an interview, I think) that Jo was at the point of suicide. Don't think she ever actually attempted, though, just seriously considered.

Katie - Thanks! And the horses vs. fish dilemma is something we all experience, I think. Haha. I love it.

Nishant said...

the fun is all in the plannins. Work from home India

非凡 said...

I'm appreciate your writing skill.Please keep on working hard.^^