One of the things that tripped me up the most when I first tried to start writing a novel was…
I spent more time planning it than I did actually writing it.
There’s a tremendous amount of writing advice out there. And I decided it would be beneficial to me to read all of it before I started writing my first novel. But the problem with that, besides the fact that there’s just so much writing advice out there, is that some of it tends to be conflicting.
And that’s to be expected. Writers who like to help other other writers naturally share the methods that have worked for them. I do the same. But what gets to me is that I’ve seen some bloggers present their method as “This is the best way to write a book and if you don’t do it my way you’re doing it wrong.” And that’s what I take issue with.
Recently I came across an article about writing scenes. The author was describing her super in-depth scene-writing method, which includes fully outlining the scene before she starts writing it, writing down what the conflict will be, where the tension will come in, how each character will feel before and after the scene, etc. etc.
And all I could think was: no, don’t do that! And that’s what this post was going to be about.
But what I really should have been thinking was: that didn’t work for me.
While I’ve found loose outlines to be extremely helpful, I’ve actually done the write-out-everything-that’s-supposed-to-happen-before-writing-a-single-word-of-your-novel-thing before, and found it supremely draining, not to mention unhelpful. See all that time I was spent writing out what was supposed to happen in my scenes was time I was spending not writing my scenes. Plus, I’ve found that no matter how much I plan, I don’t stick to it–my scenes and stories take on a life of their own, and it’s wonderful and amazing and what I end up with is actually better than what I’d planned to end up with.
It’s like this quote by Madeline L’Engle, one of my earliest favorite writers:
Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.
12 thoughts on “Writing Tip: Do What Works For You”
One of the writing tips I’ve found that doesn’t work out for me was the outlining one. I’m definitely a go with the flow kind of writer. I have a general idea of where I’m heading in mind and then start writing.
The other part that never works for me is isolating myself. I’ve got four kids. Isolating myself is just asking for them to come barging in. Instead I let the kids know what I’m doing and keep half an eye on them while I’m writing. Thankfully I can type without looking at the keyboard.
Unless I put my hands down wrong… that’s always a fun experience.
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“I’ve found that no matter how much I plan, I don’t stick to it–my scenes and stories take on a life of their own” – very true, I’ve found this as well!
I’m almost afraid to say this, but… *looks over shoulder* …some of Stephen King’s writing advice doesn’t work for me. For instance, he says, “Never keep a writer’s notebook – if an idea is good enough, it’ll stick around.” What? With my brain, are you kidding?
He also says, “DON’T outline. EVER.” Which I’ve tried (“pantsing”, is it called?) and it didn’t work at all for me. It ended with all my characters, in a room, staring at each other, not knowing what to do next 😀
I think some kind of middle way would work for me… A rough framework, then write. At the moment, I’m procrastinating through outlining, if that even makes sense!
Haha, I ADORE Stephen King and On Writing is one of my favorite books ever, but I agree with both those points. I’m constantly jotting plot/scene ideas down on my phone, and I’d be lost without my informal loose outline that is constantly changing. And you can clearly see in some of King’s novels, (The Stand, for example, which I love, but it has its flaws) where he had no idea what should happen next so just started off writing another scene. Like I said: do what works for you!
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This used to happen to me ALL the time. I thought I had to do exactly that — plan out every last detail before I could begin writing and it was always so stressful. Well. Last year, I decided to not plan much of anything and boom, finally finished a novel. Wish I had known this earlier. Great advice! 🙂
Exactly! I wish I’d known it earlier, too, but I generally only learn by doing things wrong the first time 🙂
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