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Letting go of the rope

Recently I was listening to one of Brian Niemeier’s Youtube vids on writing. In that episode, he was talking about writing at “pulp speed” a variation of the “warp speed” idea only applied to writing fast and well. As a new indie writer/publisher, I’m looking at my business processes to crank out high-quality fiction for my customers speedily. Pulp speed is a term used by DeanWesley Smith who promotes writing without a pre-determined outline.

Now, this is contrary to my very nature. By day I’m a certified project manager in the IT world. I’ve always been a planner, analyzer, and list maker. Now I’m not extreme about it, for instance not all projects I work on go into Smartsheet, Basecamp, MS Project or any of some other PM software products. Some projects are just too small, too simple, or too unimportant to go on anything else than a single sheet of paper. Back in the day, I didn’t even use PDA’s. That’s Personal Digital Assistants, not Personal Displays of Affection. My matrix, my conditioning, and personality favor order and structure.

But, as a Red Pill Writer, I’m all about breaking out of the matrix in favor of something better. Dean Wesley Smith makes a compelling argument in his book “Writing into the Dark” to drop the outline approach. His argument centers on the creative mind vs the critical (or analytical) mind. He says that attempts to outline an entire story before writing a word is by nature a critical mind activity because the writer winds up being more focused on plot construction, and what happens most often is that the plot winds up a contrivance, not creative and unpredictable. He calls it a “book on rails”. A story that is so predictable that the reader quickly sees where it is going just like a train on the rails into a city and loses interest. How many times have you watched a show or movie and knew one third the way in what the outcome was? I see it frequently. I won’t go into the details of Smith’s process here, but even though it’s focus is on the creative mind, it is still a very logical approach.

Going back to the PM (Project Management) approach, this is no different than scoping out the specific requirements and steps of a software project, and the resource (people or characters) needed to carry the project forward to a conclusion. You can see then how a PM like myself can become fixated on plotting. You could even say there is a Critical Path in the story. Project management practices seek to remove unpredictability, and in fiction predictability is cancer.

I’m writing fiction that isn’t a “book on rails”. If I’m asking you to drop a few dollars on one of my books I want you to get a quality entertaining story in exchange, so for my second book (and first fiction book), I’m going to let go of the outlining rope.

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