Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Paperback Writer says, “Until I can run the entire story through my head comfortably, without blips, concerns, blank spots or hitches, I don't attempt to get into research, make up a notebook, write a formal outline or proposal, etc. That full-story visualization is really important to me and my process; it may not be as important to other writers..."

Visualization is something I’m just discovering in my writing and, perhaps, one of the reasons why sitting down and just typing away is so hard for me at times.

Often when I’m doing other things, I mull over my story. When I get some ideas of what’s going to happen and how it’s going to happen, that’s when I can sit down and just pound out the words. I need to be able to see/visualize the scene before I can actually write it.

I do outline, but my outline is a one-line description of the scene (like boy meets girl) along with the goals and motivations for that scene. I don’t outline how that scene unfolds. This, I now know, I must do in my mind, because I can’t ‘wing it’ at the keyboard.

So, I’m curious, do you visualize your scenes when you outline, before you sit down to write, or as you’re writing? How far do you plan each scene before you write it?


1 L Loyd said...

I'm feeling my way along in this too. What I am doing right now is outlining, then see the scene in my head, then write.

Sam said...

I visualize 'à max' as my daughter would say. The scenes are like movies in my head. Sometimes they go too fast and I'm like 'Whoa!!! Hit rewind there!'

Meg Allison said...

I'd have to say I visualize the scene from beginning to end -- from conception of the idea, to the final writing. Usually I get a vague idea in my head, then as I'm writing the images become clearer -- kind of like a movie being played out.

By the way, I'd like to personally invite you to join us Saturday, May 6th, for the Samhain Author List Day, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. I'll be there during the last hour. Hop on over to my blog for more info on how to join in the fun. :)

Jean said...

I visualize mine as I write them.

My outlining, so far, is very sparse. I use those single sentences or phrases to prompt the visual in my head. As I start to see it, I get the picture or the video and write it as I see it.

The more complete the picture, the easier it is to capture it in words and I tend to get a better flow. I usually like those scenes best.

Rene said...

A scene usually pops in my head. Could be anywhere in the story, but I "see" it then I mentally sketch a story around it. One of the nice things about writing romance is I have pretty good idea how its going to end. I usually start writing and mentally keep track of where the black moments need to hit. I do not outline or write anything down, just the story.

Bethany said...

Definitely a visualizer. And i've become even more of one as I am writing more. It makes the writing easier. :-) Speaking of which, I must get back to taking a long drive. The BEST ideas come then.

Kelly Parra said...

Yes, I have to visualize and see the scene. Yet I could never do what PBW does and visualize the entire story. I'm a scene by scene kind of a girl and yeah it takes a lot longer to finish. =D

Nienke said...

So, it looks like most writers do visualize before they write. *slaps forehead* About time I figured that one out, but at least I'm moving forward! Thanks for your comments!

Heather Dawn Harper said...

I'll have to answer this one once I finally complete a WIP...I have a feeling it will be a hodge podge of processes before it is complete.

KaraMia said...

Interesting post. I've been tossing around trying to write a story for a long time, this post is a nice incentive to help me get started. Here via michele today

Jack W. Orf said...

I'm actually not a successful writer, but I find that my best articles are ones that I "grow". That is especially true of political commentary.

Usually, I start out by hearing something that makes me FURIOUS (frequently some idiotic Bush trial balloon. So I just ATTACK a piece of paper with horrible epithets and 4 letter words. Sort of screaming at a piece of paper.

Sometimes it even helps to write out HUGE 4 letter words in crayons or markers. Anything to materialize the energy of the emotion.

Then I let it sit there for a day or two, and it starts to mellow out, plant roots and sprout branches. So I start elaborating on it.

If I'm patient enough to continue editing it and re-writing it for a couple weeks, it sometimes turns into a good article.

Unfortunately, I usually don't publish any of my articles because it feels like a betrayal of something.

By the way, do you know "Sharkychick"? I stumbled across her blog and she lives in Ontario too. Its pretty wild.


Jack W. Orf (enter at your own risk)

Melissa Marsh said...

I usually visualize the scene when I'm writing, like watching a movie. If I'm stuck on a particular spot, I will go to bed and try and think about it, hoping for some inspiration. Closing my eyes seems to help for some reason. LOL

Sandy said...

Most of the 'stories' I tell tend to be personal essays and non-fiction work. It's been a long time since I've tackled a true story-telling genre.

However, when I did attempt it, I visual the beginning and the end. The rest I tackle as it comes. I'm more of a 'have to write it because it's nagging at me' sort than a set-out and 'create on purpose' writer. I sit and let the words flow on their own. I am merely a conduit for the words to transfer themselves to the screen/paper.

Michele sent me today.

A Army Of (Cl)One said...

First let me say I am not a real writer. with that said i will move on to how I write.

I write is out in my head while running or showering, then put pen paper and write a sort version to see where the story goes. Then edit, re-edit, re-re-edit...and still find stupid mistakes.

Sue said...

I am not technically a writer but I tend to think about what I want to write for a long time. I rarely outline but I use visualization in my regular, new agey life :) -- Here via Michel's today :)

Nienke said...

First I want to thank everyone for commenting. Secondly, I'd like to say that if you write anything that makes you a writer; so your opinion totally counts!
jack w. orf - great comment, but you still haven't told me what a "next blog" lottery is.

Tammy said...

Well, I'm not a writer, really, altho I got into it alot when I was younger. I don't think I outlined then, tho, I just wrote and wrote and wrote. :)

Visiting via Michele tonight.

srp said...

I have experience writing manuals, those boring safety manuals, procedure manuals, infection control manuals, quality improvement manuals... the ones no one ever really ever reads but they have to be done.

For fun I write on my blog. Here I usually have a picture, but I try to think of words that would draw the picture for readers if it weren't there.

BTW, here from Michele.

Stephanie Bose said...

I visualize pieces of it, and when I get close to a chapter, then I have a soak in the bath, or curl up in my comfy king-size bed and let the images come. It's during those times that the scenes become real to me. Trying to visualize the book in its entirety is impossible me. The book changes so much, and flows along with its own sense of direction, so I only step in periodically to nudge it : )

hey, wonderful progress on the wip! Way to go!


Jack W. Orf said...

Thanks. The "Next Blog Lottery" is just when you keep clicking on "next blog" (at google blogspot), and it gives you the next blog in some random order.

I find some interesting blogs that way.

There seem to be an increasing number of blogs in other than English.

It sometimes makes me wonder if "random" is really "random". That's like "synchronicity". Maybe there is some higher intelligence at work when you do "next blog", and it isn't really random.

But one further note on my "technique" is that when I go back and look at those sheets of paper in a couple days, they are sometimes hysterically funny. That seems strange since I am furious when I write them.

Curiously, they seem to sometimes evolve into really hilarious "irony" pieces. I guess irony is a sort of disguised, or improved, fury.

This all makes me want to write a little more. I haven't written anything for a long time.

Anonymous said...

I don't use outlines. I take the core of the story and explode it like a hand grenade. And somehow it all comes together.

I think planning a scene is not an issue. The scene should be a bud about to flower, and at full blossom it ends with a cliff hanger, which leads into the next chapter, and so forth until the end of the story.

Paperback Writer said...

Good post.

But the first thought that ran through my head was "Wha??" And then I realized that there is someone else out there with the alias of Paperback Writer.