On Writing


Every author has a unique writing process...

Some authors outline, while others will tell you they write a book from start to finish without planning out a word of it. Some do extensive research, while others rely on their current knowledge. There are intensive rewriters and those who refuse to revise even if it means losing a sale. Confusing? Not in the least. They're really all saying the same thing: find out what works for you and do it.

So, how do you find out what will work for you? 1. Write. Keep writing, revising, submitting and don't give up. Experience is the best teacher. 2. Talk to other writers. Every writer you talk to can give you tips on how to write, so go ahead and try out the different methods. 3. Do some research. There are hundreds of books out there on the craft of writing. (In the last segment of this article, you'll find a short list of the books I've found valuable.) Read a handful and you'll see some points repeated, while others are unique to a specific author or editor. Sift through the tips and pick a few to put to the test. 4. Even when you think you've found your groove, it's worth it to try a new method and shake up your routine every once in awhile.

I was extremely resistant to doing a plot outline...
until my muse whacked me on the head with the light bulb.

Take my trials and errors in the writing process as an example. At first, I wrote by the seat of my pants, never outlining, just writing as things came to me...or stopping when they didn't. Result? I ended up with a drawer full of great beginnings and half finished stories. I was extremely resistant to doing a plot outline. After all, that's too much like work or an assignment from a mean English teacher, right? I told myself that outlines or any planning would take away the magic of writing...until my muse whacked me on the head with the light bulb. I had been approaching the job of writing like a reader, clinging to that desire to be surprised as I wandered down a new path without knowing where it would lead. I realized that if I was serious about writing, I had to sign up for the job of crafting the story--to survey the land, make a blueprint, and then start building with the knowledge of where and how each paving stone will work with the others to complete the path from beginning to end. I have to know where the story is going each step of the way--well before I finish that first twist in the path. For a writer, the real magic comes in getting a story idea, writing it well and then having a reader tell you that it's good. That doesn't happen unless the story gets done and gets published.

So, do I jot down every last detail of the plot, work out elaborate character profiles and plan the rise and fall of each chapter before I start my rough draft? No. I've ended up somewhere in the middle by jerry-rigging pieces of both writing methods. I've gotten into the habit of outlining very loosely. I write down major plot points, the first scenes that pop into my head, snatches of dialogue, etc. When I have the general story arc planned out, I start writing and filling in the blanks as I go. I add minor plot points to that loose outline and keep moving them around till the pieces fit. Since I started using this process, I've finished stories and gotten them published. As a method of writing, it works for me.

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