Writing: My Method

I’m always interested to know how other writers write–how, when, where, for how long and why (ha, ha). So, in the hopes that my compatriots will jump in with their own method, I’m going to give a quick breakdown of my process.

HOW: Before I begin a story, I visualize it in my head, not necessarily things like character names or setting, but conflict, storyline, themes. I’m big on themes. Sometimes I use other stories that I really admire as models, or pick elements from other stories that are done well and ask myself how I can incorporate that into my own. When the daydreaming is done and the writing begins, I stop reading stories that may be even remotely like mine. Because nothing shatters the confidence more than finding out your story’s already been told. Every story has already been told, but none have been told the way you would tell it. (I think I read that somewhere.)

I’m not a big outliner, which has been my unravelling in the past, but every time I try, it’s like eating overcooked pasta. Yuck. So, instead, I think of high points in tension that will serve my story. And sometimes, I don’t even do that. In fact, let’s skip this planning part altogether. Hopefully, someone else will step in here.

WHEN: I don’t have a lot of free time. Everyone says that, but in my case, it’s true, really, I swear. So, when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about what I’m going to write when I get the chance. I’m running lines between characters in my head, thinking of their motivations, their emotional reactions to plot happenings, good and bad choices as well as snappy one-liners and lots of soap opera cliffhangers. I love a good cliffhanger. I do this so that when I actually sit down to write, the hard part is done, mostly. There are still moments when I don’t want to actually do it (the daydreaming is so much more fun), but in those moments, I treat writing like a really crummy job, and I’ve had a few. When faced with a dirty, smelly, gross toilet, do you shut the lid and walk away? No, you roll up your sleeves, get your noxious toilet bowl cleaner and scrub the sugar out of it.

I also think about my story every day. If I know I won’t have time to write that day, I scan it over quickly so that it’s still with me. And when I do write, I plow through it, with plenty of __________ all over the page. Usually after I finish a chapter, I go back and fact check, fill in the names and try to make the dialogue smoother, give the scenes more color and movement, work on transitions and make sure that I’m including my themes, overall conflict, motivations, oh and grammar too!

WHERE: I’m not too fussy about where I write. I don’t need absolute silence or solitude or mood music or a special keyboard. I often keep my story on a flash drive and plug it into any old computer I come across. I can sometimes carry on a conversation while writing. It’s not preferred, but I’ve learned that if you wait for ideal circumstances to write, you’ll be waiting a long time. And if I’m not inventing the story, I’m improving sentence flow, adding poetic phrases when possible, fixing stilted dialogue or asking myself, overall, why does this scene suck so bad?

HOW LONG: As long as I can.

WHY: I love writing, even more than the actual writing, I love stories–reading them, watching them, inventing them. I also love communicating thoughts and ideas that are hard to articulate in conversation. I didn’t always love sharing my writing with others, but my writer friends will say I have made great strides in overcoming my shyness. I also think that after spending so much time in self-imposed isolation, I am eager to get feedback and fairly good at emotionally distancing myself from my writing. Being able to give and receive good criticism is, I think, nearly as important as being able to write.

But that is the subject of another post.

So there you have it, my method, laid bare. What’s yours?

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