Systems, Order, and Clarity

Systems, Order, and Clarity
Image provided by
Seth Sawyer @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/sidewalk_flying/

I subscribe to a bi-weekly newsletter written and distributed by Jill Jepson. In her last news publication, she wrote about the perceptions concerning the writing process.

Like Jill, I’ve been questioning the belief that writing should be done in a certain way. Not quite two months ago I wrote a post somewhat on the same lines as what I’m discussing here. Since then, my ponders have taken me to the atypical suggestions of what writing could be to an individual, more precisely, to me.

Although writing enters into all facets of life in today’s world, in its intrinsic nature, it is a form of art. As such, what kind of boundaries can it realistically have? Whose to judge how I should approach the process of writing?

Systems

All the formulas for the process that I’ve come across thus far are requiring a specific start point and usually follow a certain path. Why? Because having that outset and course allegedly works flawlessly for someone–most assuredly the person who advocates that particular formula at least.

I propose that a formula is not necessarily the right strategy, depending on the person, of course. When I took vision art classes, I was told to do a sketch before doing anything else. I never imagined that the advice was written in stone. Sometimes an artist must begin in the middle to achieve was s/he want to express. A writer shouldn’t be any different.

Systems or strategies are good, but only if they’re needed and serve the right purpose. Otherwise, I find them useless.

Order

I’m an orderly person by nature. So much so that I wake up automatically by 6:15 no matter which day it is. I run my life by schedules. I don’t think I could ever really be spontaneous with my time. I know where the scissors are in the kitchen–if husband hasn’t used them recently. I know exactly where my pharmaceutical receipts are. Before I sit at the computer to do serious writing for the first session of a day, my bed is made.

Yes, I do begin my writing projects with the beginning of the story.

Yet, this doesn’t mean this is the one and only way writing should be done. Some authors start at the end. I see nothing wrong with this. Some writers don’t do preliminary work like development sheets, arcs, or general outlines until they’re done with the first draft. It sound reasonable to me. There are those who haven’t got a need for any of those sheets. More power to them.

I do my preliminary sheets as I write my first draft. The entirety of each character doesn’t start to emerge for me until I start putting him/her into situations. Scenes may start one way, but there’s a possibility that the environment changes because of what I see happening next.

I may be a true creator of habit and schedules, but when it come to writing, I need as much freedom as I can muster up.

Clarity

Although what I write should be clearly understood, should how I arrived at the written work be all that apparent? Being a glutton for established rules, order, and schedules, I thought preciseness and directness were requirements in all things I do. Yet, the writing process is far from being an exact science so I finally discovered that how I get to the clear understanding doesn’t have to go along the straight the narrow.

“Sometimes it’s necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly.” ( Edward Franklin Albee III)

The first time I heard this quote was in the movie Grumpy Old Men. Luckily, I didn’t have to go far to find the author of it. Reading it, I think of how a story is much more interesting if it shows what’s going on instead of telling. Telling can be a more lucid way to get the point across, but the enthusiasm and passion aren’t there. What a shame.

So how am I approaching the process of writing?

As some of you know, I lost the draft I was working on. I can’t bring myself to start that story all over again, at least not yet. So I created a new writing project. I’m still using yWriter, but I’m not bothering with chapters. I’m using scenes only during this rough draft. I’ve come to find out there are authors who have one scene per chapter anyway. With my story though, there will be a few chapters with two or three scenes. Still, until I get to the second time around with the draft, I’m sticking to this approach.

§

What is your approach to the writing process? Do you view writing in the same way an athletic prepares for the chosen sport? Are you spontaneous?

What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers. ~Logan Pearsall Smith, “All Trivia,” Afterthoughts, 1931

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15 Replies to “Systems, Order, and Clarity”

  1. Glynis, you’ve found what works for you. Advice about writing is often given for beginners who are looking for a plan that might help generate success. So very sorry you lost the draft for the other book, buy you always persevere, no matter the challenges.
    I’ve written three complete books, all with a different approach, and am working on books four and five. That’s my approach – not one book in the works, but two.
    This was a pleasure to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This was another rant of sorts. It came from the manner of how some articles about writing are created. It’s as if the author can’t conceive the notion of someone writing in a different mode. I appreciate the advice I get from these articles. I just don’t welcome the tone in which they are presents.

      I’m actually hoping I can stop myself from writing any more posts of this nature. I’d like to get back to the constructive aspects of writing and what I’m detecting in my so-called quest.

      I wonder if I could have two projects racing at the same time. I have my doubts because of the short-term memory dilemma I encounter so often. I’d be afraid of coming across, “Where was I now?” all the time. On the other hand, it would alleviate those gaps of boredom. Uhmm…

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  2. Interesting to hear about your writing process, Glynis. Nothing wrong at all with starting at the beginning and the fact you like to plan your way through – it gives you something to aim for, and you can always come back to the logic you’ve done to improve on it.

    Personally, I’m quite like you. I like things in an orderly manner. I like to know the start and end of a blog post or story I’m writing before I bash out the words. I suppose I like the sense of clarity that comes through a bit this way as you mentioned – and not floundering.

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    1. Yes, we do seem to be alike. I do ponder on the idea of letting things just roll as they want, the floundering as you put it. I used to write like that in a personal journal. The method, or the lack of it, helped me discover new aspects of myself and interesting notions that could become story material. I do love my routines though.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. If something works for you, it’s good enough. I always find it interesting to learn about the ways people approach a task, particularly a creative task. I don’t feel that there can be a right way, and there certainly can’t be a wrong way, if it works for someone.

    I’ve been involved with systems design and computer programming for almost 40 years. Every now and then, someone talks about the way they do it. If a second person tries it, and it works, someone will publish a paper and label it a “best practice.” I have read upwards of 100 books, each espousing a new and better way of doing something that lies somewhere between creative and mechanical. I flit from one “technique” to another, but it works for me. As for writing, I don’t work on longer works, but I still flit from one approach to another. Sometimes, I am spontaneous. Other times, I have drafts that go through iteration after iteration. I’m often surprised by what people appear to like.

    I wish you luck in your writing, however you choose to do it (and whether or not the bed is made 🙂

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    1. The made bed, just like brushing my teeth and washing my face, have been instilled in me since I was able to even out the covers on a bed and see into the basin of a sink. Strict house rules leading to lifelong habits are ingrained in me. As much as I wish I could get away from all these ‘methods’ in my life, I’m affixed to them like glue.

      Enough of the rants, at least for a long while.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Just from reading this post and how well you’ve laid it out shows how orderly you are. Bravo. Others’ ideas are only a starting point or stepping stone. To compare yourself to anyone’s progress or output is a recipe for self doubt. I believe we explore or not until we find a way that works for us. Most times I have no idea where I’m going or how a piece will end. Other times I wonder what the heck I think I’m doing. I’m a mess and haven’t a clue. I persevere and sometimes chuck the attempt–never do I throw it out though because another time, I might solve the issue and like what happens. 😀
    So, so sorry you lost your manuscript. Ouch. That would send me into a bad, bad place. :/

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    1. Maybe the self doubt was the point of this rant. I can sense myself being more at ease with the exploration of words, my style of writing, and even my growth and changes in how I write. Maybe I was trying to get the last of the bad residue off, that burden I’ve been carrying even though I’ve rid myself of the need for it.

      I still have my notes for that manuscript. I will be back to it eventually for the simple reason that it won’t stop lurking in the back of my mind. I just want to get through a draft of a new one before tackling it again. 😛

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  5. One of the most helpful start-up writing books I read was the Marshall Plan. It outlined exactly how to write a story–something I didn’t know at the time. Things like action scenes require reaction scenes. Each main character needs to appear in sufficient scenes to be memorable. Sounds obvious but it wasn’t when I started. Since then, I’ve adapted for my own needs but never forget those early lessons.

    Like you, if I lost the only draft of a mss, I would not be able to pick it up again. Every time I see that commercial about the man losing the only draft of his completed novel–and dismissing it–I cringe.

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  6. I wish I were like you more. I’m not that organized and I have problems getting used to a routine. I struggle every day trying to keep a writing schedule. But you’re right, writing is not about structure. Sometimes, we need to find our own methodologies, what works best for each of us. I found that if I wrote complying all the writing rules, my writing sounded boring. And If I just let it go (but it certainly helps knowing the rules before breaking them) and wrote as freely as I felt I need to do it, then my stories became more alive.
    As writers, it’s really helpful making this analysis from time to time. It doesn’t help going to extremes. I found that if I go the disorganized way, then it’s unlikely I’ll have something finished soon. But I also found that I need some freedom to have the stories that I want.

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  7. Glynis, you have a system in place that works for you and that’s what matters. Sometimes I plan on being a “scheduled” writer, but it doesn’t always happen. I like to try out new ways to pen my thoughts 🙂
    I’m sorry that you lost your draft – I hope that you can restart it soon.
    Thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog earlier. Your thoughtfulness lifted my spirit! Have a lovely evening.

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    1. When I saw the notification of a new post on your blog, Elaine, I got myself over there to read it. I’m aware of how encumbering having a blog can be. It can suck creativity out instead of pouring it in.

      The draft I lost may have been something that was never meant to be. Even looking at the notes, I’m thinking it was way too syrupy. Second time around with it should be better.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This was definitely a pleasure to read, as the first commentor said :). I feel the same way. You found what works for you, and so, that is what’s right for you. 🙂 I am so new to it that I’m only finding my way but I read a lot and as a fan or reader, in my humble opinion, when I can sense it is soo structured, sometimes even the best writers can start to sound stale. So I feel one should do what works best for them ♡ 🙂

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    1. One of the authors I referred you to is a planner. Jami even offers free worksheets. However, in several of her posts she clearly states that her way doesn’t work for every writer and discusses the ‘pantsing’ method (free form).

      I do think I’m a little peculiar because I govern my life around systems, order, and making sure everything is clearly understood, yet I don’t do this with my writing. What I gathered from the post I read at your blog and what you’ve stated here, you’re a little odd too.

      Quirky isn’t a bad thing. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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