A blog I’ve visited frequently to learn about writing is Fiction University. One of the posts, written by the owner, Janice Hardy, has stayed firm in my mind, Writers: Ignore This Writing Advice. If You Want. To have someone out-and-out tell me I don’t have to take the advice of accomplished authors gives me that sense of optimism that can propel me forward in any project I’m working on. I shed the notions of having to follow rules I find no use for and can be a wacky as I want.
She says it all for me in the first sentence of her second paragraph.
I’m a firm believer that there’s no right way to write, and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.
Albeit, not having straightforward guideline can also send my erratic brain into a frenzy, swinging from one side of the pendulum to the other. I wonder which of the sides is the better, not even considering all that is in the middle.
The current swank way to write a novel is to use the Plotting Method. Those who use this are call Plotters, of course. What this means is the writer does preliminary work centered around the story before diving into the chapters and scenes. There’s summaries, outlines, developmental arcs, questionnaires, and good old fashion research. The hardcore plotter does this before writing that first page of the first scene in that first chapter. Believe it or not, this approach to writing works for many authors.
Regardless of me being somewhat of a neat freak, wanting a schedule I can live with day in and day out, and wanting things so organized, spontaneousness gets squashed regularly, I find myself wanting to trash all the preparation the plotter goes through and get down to writing the blasted story. There’s enough of us who are pantsers, the ones who just put our butts in our chairs and start writing the first page of the first scene of chapter one, so I don’t have any guilty knocking going on in my head about how I’m proceeding with my project.
Still, after twelve scenes in my current WiP, I’m discovering the need to develop my second characters before I can continue with the story. His reactions, insights, and mannerisms will have such a bearing on my protagonist and what she does in response to not only him but everyone and everything in her world. Yes, this guy is more important than what is conveyed on the surface. Do I stop and fill out those sheets I’ve downloaded a various writing sites, or do I just forge ahead in hopes all turns out okay?
I question my sanity when I flounder with decisions like this. How can a person of such defined habits in life swing so wildly from one methodology to another, never landing long enough to see enough of what is working or is not working? The notion of not having hardcore rules could be playing havoc with my usual commonsense. Or maybe it’s a case of I’m assuming I have commonsense when, in reality, I’m as flaky as they come.
Either way, I’ve come to a crossroad where I must decide to either keep plodding along hoping all will come out all right despite my misgivings, or to put the story aside for a short time to do some development questionnaires, an arc, and maybe an outline. I wince at the thought of all this writing that will never make it to the first draft. Yet, if I’m honest with myself, I know the second draft will be twice as grueling if I just slog along with what I have so far.
Pondering on all of this, I’m reminded that there’s nothing telling me I can’t go ahead with a little plotting technique, get it done, and go back to good ol’ pantsing. Maybe I’ll be ensuing a new methodology of writing procedures this way. I wonder what this process would be called. I’m doing the groundwork as I need it. I’m developing as I go. Sitting here trying to think of a catch phrase, I’m coming up blank.
Maybe if I let it rest for a short while, the dust in my brain from the racing will clear and I’ll be able to find that term I want.
Writers spend three years rearranging 26 letters of the alphabet. It’s enough to make you lose your mind day by day. ~Richard Price