“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” -Lewis Carroll

Sage story telling advice from The King in Alice and Wonderland.  It’s good in theory anyway.  I generally like to start somewhere in the middle, discover the end, then draw the story back to it’s most logical beginning.  Perfectly sensible in my estimation.  This may explain, to a degree, my lack of completed novels. We’ll mark this -Why I have not completed a novel – point 1A.

Oddly enough it’s the beginning where I’ve started this go round.  Perhaps it’s a sign.  Perhaps Lewis Carroll is working vicariously through my feeble fingers.  We’re going to go with – It’s a sign.

According to most writing manuals, creative writing seminars and my daughter’s 2nd grade class however, it’s really before the beginning where you’re supposed to begin – in the outline.  I don’t outline.  I have never outlined.  I find the entire process tedious and redundant.  We’ll mark that point 1B of why I have not yet completed a novel.

Manuals schmanuals – I’m sticking with Carroll on this one – or at least with The King (head or no).

Also, apparently sensical is not a word.  Nonsensical is a word.  Sensible is a word.   This tip has been brought to you by the English language which I find to be nonsensical or not at all sensible.  (Take that English!)


The SomewhatSortof Novelist – behaving badly


16 thoughts on ““Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” -Lewis Carroll

  1. Bah – ignore the rules. You don’t need to write in order to make outlines. My first draft is my outline – then you go back and edit the hell out of it. Outlines are like writing the book before you write the book, and then you’ve already written the book, so why continue? It IS tedious. But, if you think outlines are tedious….the outline is editing’s bitch when it comes to tedious. 😀 But nothing works without editing.

    In closing: Screw the rules and do whatever works for you! YOU CAN DO IT!!

  2. I wrote three novels at that time (and plenty of short-stories, poems, endless stories and so on of course ! lol). One of them is… well… I will rewrite it someday. The second one is waiting on my desk to be written up on my computer. The last one is pretty good if I trust my friends and some strangers on the Internet.

    All I can say is that I use outlines, a little like a map in order to know where I want to go. I don’t always follow them but they’re here if needed. I didn’t do that before and I only wrote short-stories so I imagine outlines really help me not to forget all my excellent ideas 😛

    Oh and I never write the end before… the end. It’s like a prize for me, and the fact is I never knew the end of my novels before I wrote the last sentence.
    It’s different with the short-stories. I don’t need outlines for them and most of the time I know the end before the story in itself.
    I don’t know, I have the impression that, when my characters are really created with their own behaviours and their own thoughts (which take some time and chapters), I don’t own the story anymore. They decide what to do. I can’t make them do what I want if I’m not sure that’s what THEY could do.

    I hope you’ll manage to find your own way to write the novel you want. It’s a very enjoying (and adventurous) journey and a really great satisfaction when you finish it 🙂

    • I have also written a lot of shorter format projects and have many novels in one form or another of disarray, but it’s a huge challenge for me to focus on one writing project at a time as I always seem to have so many in the works at once. Congrats on getting 3 under your belt already. Are you pursuing publishing? Yet another huge feat that is daunting to me. Best of luck!

      • Publishing is a project yes but not for now. I don’t know how it works in other countries but in France (I’m French) it’s really not easy to get published. If you don’t know any publisher it’s quite impossible unless you have written something very original like… French Harry Potter, Twilight in Versailles or the biography of a former president… and that’s not my style…

        Focusing on one writting is something I discovered to be impossible for me. Another reason to use outlines ! lol
        I know most of writers focus. I can’t and I think it works better for me to write several stories at the same time, at least untill I don’t think about anything but the ONE.

        And even if it’s said that you need silence to write, I often write in public places where there’s noise and people or with good music that inspire me. But never silence. I can’t !

        So I think the hardest thing to do when you try to write a novel is to find your own way, trying some things and keeping only the ones that suit you.

        Finally I think the hardest thing to do when you want to write a novel is to find your own way to do it. Try some things, keep the ones that work and forget the others.

      • Publishing is equally difficult in the US. And as I understand it, even Harry Potter wasn’t easy to publish. So perseverance is key. I have a lovely file of rejection letters I’m collecting. I’ll keep at it and hope for the best. I hope you do the same.

  3. Sounds kinda like “whelmed,” doesn’t it? You can be over- and under-, but you can never just be whelmed. I am whelmed by your post; that means I agree with it (I guess!). Good luck with your novel :]!

  4. Well, after hearing my favorite author, Karin Slaughter, speak last night I can tell you that she does not outline. She is of the opinion there is no right or wrong process. She knows best selling authors who do outline and those that don’t. My favorite.. the one who starts with a single sentence to begin the book and then doesn’t stop writing until the end. The one thing she did say that I found interesting, “readers make the best writers”.

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