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.