Writing From The Conscious Or Subconscious Brain

4573981611 d8a1049ffe o Writing From The Conscious Or Subconscious Brain
When you start writing, do you have an outline prepared from which you never stray? Or do your characters have a way of sneaking up on you and force you to rethink the direction you planned to take? Do you fight with them or do accept what they want to do, even if you don’t understand it at first?

Recently, I was tweeting with @MarinaCohen, the author of the novel Ghost Ride Writing From The Conscious Or Subconscious Brain about this exact subject. She tweeted, “I have a love/hate relationship with new characters who muscle their way into my manuscript uninvited.” I loved the line, so started a conversation with her asking whether “the plot stayed derailed or does it get back on course?” to which she replied, “The plot takes a new and better direction. Once I stop raging against it and give in to the change!”

My short conversation with Marina has brought up a few questions that I hope all YA writers would like to respond to, do you write from your subconscious brain? Do you accept the changes and plot developments that your characters want to explore, even if you’re unsure about them at first? Or, by contrast, are your YA novels planned completely before you ever begin and never change? Would love to hear your comments on what the writing process is like for you!

  7 comments for “Writing From The Conscious Or Subconscious Brain

  1. Melissa
    May 3, 2010 at 6:10 am

    It is so true, even though you have a good idea where your story is headed, a single new character out of no where can throw it all out the window. I think I spend a lot of my time writing subconsciously. I always have a small idea, but find I will write something, then I’m like, “hang on what just happened? When did that come into play?” So I just go with the flow most of the time. I mean I can always change it later.

  2. May 3, 2010 at 7:26 am

    I write up an outline so I know where I’m going. Some areas of the outline are more firm than others, however. When I get into the actual writing phase I definitely let the subconscious take over, and occasionally that alters the outline. It also helps me firm up and fill in the weak spots. Anyhow, I think with writing it’s good to know the route you’re taking and the important bits you’ll take with you along the way – but you should be gentle on yourself about the rest.

  3. May 3, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    I’ve learned the hard way that an outline is necessary. You can start out sketching loose ideas, and you can revise your outlines when better ideas suggest themselves, but unless your subconscious has a death grasp on story and plot, and is in control of them at all times, you’d better have an outline, or your story will go everywhere and nowhere. While that might delight your inner artist, it’s more than likely to bore or frustrate your reader.

  4. May 3, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Great discussion piece! In my own experience writing I’ve definitely done a combo of both of the above. I have a general overview of what’s going to happen, but I also let the character’s “speak” to me. I think when you are to rigid in either direction the writing can become difficult for not only you, but the reader.

  5. May 3, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Thanks for all the great comments everyone! So far, it looks like most of you use an outline of some sort to get from point A to B, but some of you are, perhaps, more willing to let your characters carve their own way. Katie, Melissa and Danielle (The1stdaughter) all allow the subconscious to push them through weak spots and /or to bridge various elements of the skeletal plot. However, I think that from what Katie suggested and what Jill stated quite firmly, when the plot gets derailed from the original plan, it’s either get back on course or figure out a way to revise the outline to permit this plot development.

    Would love to hear additional comments, but I think that what’s been stated already would really help aspiring authors of the YA variety and other sorts of writing.

  6. May 4, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Oh, I’m glad my comment inspired this discussion! I think it’s really interesting! I say I don’t write from an outline, but maybe that’s not entirely true. I can never begin to write until all the major pieces have been worked out in my mind. Once I have all the big pieces I begin. But honestly, I do love the surprise of placing a character in a situation and then seeing what happens. Sometimes my plot twists and turns, but always manages to stay on track. I firmly believe in a tight plot where everything (characters/descriptions) drives the plot forward–otherwise, as Jill said, your plot will scatter and you will bore the reader. Still, there is room for that magic that happens when a character opens the front door and you and they are both expecting one character to be standing there and a whole other person shows up uninvited! (so long as they drive the plot forward, of course! :))

  7. May 4, 2010 at 10:04 am

    I’m really glad that I saw your comment, so that it could become this lively discussion. Marina, I think that your comments have confirmed that an outline is important to write a tight plot. (This is something that aspiring writers may want to keep in mind, rather than “learning the hard way” as Jill mentioned earlier). Some people, it seems have the big pieces of the plot worked out (whether on paper or in their mind) and then go from there, while others have something a lot more firm in their mind. It seems as though YA writers have to walk a fine balance between ensuring that they have a tight plot that drives the plot forward and allowing themselves to accept the surprises and magic that you’ve mentioned Marina. I like that you’ve stressed that surprises need to move the plot forward – I’m sure that we’ve all read books where the developments seems unbelievable, but perhaps, the mark of a great writer is one who knows what threads they can weave together to make more sense out of the book, rather than to raise more, unnecessary questions. Readers – whether they’re young adults or adults – can pick up on useless plot devices, so don’t think you can get away with them, even if your target audience is of a younger age group. :)

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