I was fairly new to writing when I made a serious mistake. I wish someone had warned me of the long fall and ravine of doubt that mistake would cause. If possible, I’d like to save new writers from this. So today, fine people, I’m telling you:
Don’t let anyone – ANYONE – tell you how you have to write.
Now, I’m not talking about all of the elements required in a story (conflict, motivation, arcs, etc.). Those are all things you need for effective story-telling. I’m talking about the actual process of putting words onto screen or paper. The act of writing.
I’ve been to workshops that suggested tips on the process. Operative words here are suggested and tips. All to help a fellow writer out. These workshops are awesome. But I’ve also been to those that insist if you don’t use a particular method, then you’re wrong. I’ve even heard, if you don’t write a certain way, then you aren’t (and I quote), a real writer.
Today, I know enough to roll my eyes and ignore their editorial, but back then I bought it.
For me, it was planning and plotting a story. I tried to become this detailed plotter, with a ten page long plot outline and notebook full of charts, graphs, forms and character descriptions. I’m not exaggerating. And if that’s your jam and it works for you, by all means, GET IT. It did not work for me. I ended up with a notebook full of what felt like homework and no desire to write.
Some people love software programs and gadgets, others love note cards, and it works for them. If it doesn’t work for you, that’s okay! There are writers out there who will say you need to have a dedicated writing space and iPod full of ambient sounds in order to write well. Guess what? If you don’t have that option, and have to write sitting on the end of the sofa with Amazing World of Gumball as your background noise, then you get used to it. Some writers hit 5,000 words a day, 6 days a week. Others write less than 1,00 words, maybe 3 days a week. Both ways will get you to The End. We all write under different circumstances, with different processes and rituals. Don’t ever feel like you have to do it someone else’s way.
I suggest you go to the workshops, listen to the ideas, and cherry pick the methods that speak to you. Try them out. Occasionally, you’ll find something that opens your writing up in tremendous ways. But if what the workshop suggests makes you want to beat the wall with your keyboard, you don’t have to do it.
There is no ONE way. In fact, I don’t know any two writers who write the same way.
Even my fellow plotsing buddy and I differ greatly. We both start with fairly basic plots (I did realize I need to plot a little more, just not notebook length plotting), but then I Vin Diesel the hell out of my first draft. Fast. Furious. Heavy on the forward momentum and UNF, touching on the deeper themes and heavier emotions, that I’ll go back and expand upon later. My friend is a more intentional drafter, requiring a lighter second pass on her manuscript that may take a few days.
My second pass takes about three weeks.
This would drive some writers bonkers. Their way works for them, this way works for me. The ways to write are as diverse as the world around us, and diversity is awesome! So while it may take time, only you can decide the best way for you to write.