Thursday, June 3, 2010

Clusters

We talk a lot about organization - to outline or not to outline, that is the question. I'm not much of an outliner. I'm more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants gal. In Discovering the Writer Within, Bruce Ballenger and Barry Lane recommend clustering as a way of organizing and building upon our thoughts and ideas. I like it. It works for me. I recommend it.
"Draw a circle around your subject. This is the nucleus. Free associate branches of words fanning out from the center. As with freewriting or brainstorming, don't think before you write. Let the words come in waves. Don't be afraid if your words don't mean anything to anyone else but you. Let your pen do the thinking. When one strand runs out, go back to the nucleus and start another. When you come across a word in a branch that is too evocative to skip over, let that word be a nucleus to start another branch. If your mind goes blank, doodle, darkening lines or circles until a new branch sprouts. Let your words grow like ivy on a great elm over the clean page..."
~ Barry Lane


Our nucleus words can be our story lines, our characters, our settings, our conflicts and resolutions - the possibilities are endless. I also love this description by Barry:
"Though it might seem crazy at first, clustering is a wonderful way to chase down ideas without being slowed up by sentences and paragraphs...it allows a writer a chance to explore ideas without putting them into rigid form. Clustering can give you a little elbow room to play with an idea"
Clustering is just another tool we can use to help structure our stories and organize our thoughts. There are even multiple tools available on our computers. For someone like me, who is allergic to organizational strategies, this is the perfect tool. It helps me feel organized but let's me be messy while I do it! Perfect!

What is your favorite strategy?

36 comments:

Raquel Byrnes said...

I am an outliner through and through. Gotta have all my little plot blocks filled in and numbered or I go bonkers.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I've never been able to outline, so I'm going to try your bubbles. That actually looks fun.

Tere Kirkland said...

Sometimes I need to use a method like this when I'm trying to write very precise action scenes and I'm not sure how it will unfold.

Sometimes I use a free downloadable mindmapping software, like Freemind, but other times it works better on paper.

Great post!

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

My approach is always different no one way is the way for me. It depends on the scene and my mood, generally though I'm a pantser :) I've tried this method and then got confused with my own thoughts lol. I'm really visual so you would think things like this would help, but really I'm a pantser at heart

Lisa Gail Green said...

I just jump right in and GO! I'm weird that way.

Jamie Grey said...

Wow - that's such a great idea! I never used to be an outliner, but I've found myself doing chapter outlines for the last two books. This might be a more creative way to break things down! Thanks for posting.

Jaydee Morgan said...

I've seen this before but it doesn't work for me. I need the more rigid lines of my outline.

Candyland said...

My favorite is writing things on post-its, my hand, my daughter's hand, losing/washing off all the notes and spending an endless amount of time trying to remember what I'd thought of...

Catherine Denton said...

I'm such an outliner. It's hard for me to "wing it" but I feel I should do that more. This idea is creative and I think it'll help me let go a bit. Thanks for the tip!
Winged Writer

PJ Hoover said...

I first brainstorm in Word and then throw everything into Excel where I can move it around and add stuff as needed. I generally outline my plots ahead of time, and it works for me.

Stephanie said...

Sometimes I make a formal outline, but it's never too in depth...just a chronological order of how the book will go. Other times I just write and let it flow and if other ideas for later on in the book pop into my head, I make a note at the end of the piece.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Call me a CSI writer. I put up a "crime board" and tack on and write the characters, motivations, and questions of why, how, and where on there to solve the mystery of my novel.

I wrote a post of it
http://rolandyeomans.blogspot.com/2010/05/meet-dali-rama.html

Have fun with your writing along the way,Roland

Southpaw said...

I find I'm to impatient to outline so I make a basic plot, then jump in.

Jen said...

Oh my gosh how great! I am normally a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl but lately I've been stuck on the revising/rewriting front to where I think an outline would do me some good. What a wonderful idea to incorporate clusters. I think I'll attempt this tonight! :)

Kari said...

Sometimes I jump right in and outline later. But I think it's better when I do a brainstorming session and type out my questions and then answer them before I do any actual writing!
great question : )

Laura Marcella said...

"allergic to organizational strategies" LOL!

I'm addicted to organization, but I do like clustering a lot! I'm an outliner and a plotter, but clustering is a fun, freeing way to discover new elements and directions for the story/characters. I haven't clustered in awhile, though, so I think it's time to try it again! Thanks for a great post!

Terresa said...

My 2nd grade daughter is doing these in school. I smiled the first time she brought them home. They are most helpful in organizing, although I don't use them. (I use the old fashioned Roman Numeral outlining...)

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I don't outline or anything like that but the clustering seems like a really good idea. Thanks Shannon. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I confess - I'm an outliner. I like to know where I am going before I begin.

Natalie said...

Clusters are a good idea. I remember having to use them for school projects. I should try again.

I usually just open a word document and start typing up ideas. Once I start writing I never open it again, but it helps to brainstorm a little.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I haven't used clusters, but that's a pretty good idea. For my first novel I had a tight outline- there were a lot of documented historical events I had to include. For this second book I've been a bit looser. It's kind of fun, but also driving me nuts.

Kimberly Franklin said...

I really don't have a process. Whenever I try to outline my creativity disappears and when I "pants-it" I get lost in a jumbled mess of a plot. But I like this idea, I might have to give it a try. :)

Karen Lange said...

Clustering is a great tool. I hate to outline, always have, even in school, for I never could decide how to order things even within the outline. Now as an adult, I actually use a rough outline for writing sometimes. Go figure. Clustering, though, helps me sort things out; it just kind of depends on the project. Sometimes I don't use either method.
Happy weekend:)

Bossy Betty said...

Depends on what I am writing, but I am mostly a clustering gal! Love what comes out!

Nishant said...

Clusters are a good idea
PPC Advertising India

Jemi Fraser said...

I use webs like this all the time in my classroom - not so much for my writing. But... it would make much more sense for me than an outline. I can't do those!

Deb Salisbury said...

I need to try this method. I'm a very linear thinker, so outlines work well for me, but I can see where bubbles could generate story ideas.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Shannon -

I'm a pantser, but this method has possibilities. I've tried just about everything, so what do I have to lose? It appeals to my free-flowing way of creating a story.

Thanks,
Susan :)

Mary Aalgaard said...

I do that, but it looks even messier. Words are scattered over the whole page. I circle the ones that I think are the best. It's fun. That's how I interview people. They must wonder how those random (looking) words turn into coherent sentences.

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

I have no strategy. I don't do outlines. They scare me. I just write random scenes and piece them together later.

Just like my life. lol

Terri Tiffany said...

I have heard of this method before but never had it explained so well. It might be appealing to me. Right now, I force myself to use a notebook though very disorganized, it gives me the semblance of planning ahead and does help:)

Jamie D. said...

I never could get into clustering...my mind rebels against the free-form of it. LOL

I develop a basic plot, write a scene outline (1 sentence per scene), then as I'm writing, I use a personal worksheet for figuring out where the next scene needs to go if I get stuck. Just basic stuff like character roll call, what needs to happen next, possible ways to get there. Kind of like clustering, only in a more linear form.

Happy bubbles! :-)

Mary_not_Martha said...

Have you been peeking into my brain again? all those empty bubbles.....I've been found out! Truly, that diagram looks to be the perfect tool to try for my next freewriting moment....

Jackee said...

Cool! I'll have to try this. I admit clustering isn't something I've used more than in a classroom exercise. I'm more of a lister.

A big lister, actually... too much so.

AchingHope said...

Ooh! I've heard of this! :D I'll have to give it a try. Thanks :)

Jhh Hjh said...

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...