Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Finding Your Way

I had a post all ready to go for this week and I decided to hold off on it because something came up.  I'll put it up next week.  It'll be called "What's your Point (of View).  Please stop by and check it out.

Now, on to the something that came up.

About two weeks ago, I think I found it...I found: The Way.

More specifically, I found The Way that works for me when I write.

There are countless books and blogs and forums dedicated to finding The Way.  Stephen King, in his brilliant "On Writing", says that whenever he gets asked about how he writes, he replies "One word at a time."

While this may seem like Smart-Assery, if you've read the book (and I highly recommend that you do) you find out that's exactly how he writes.  He doesn't hold to outlines or advance plotting, he just sits there and lets the characters tell their story one word at a time.  It's called "Seat of the Pants" writing and it's a very viable writing style with its own set of strengths and weaknesses.

Rachel Aaron (the creator of a Wonderful character named Eli Monpress--you really need to check him out) has a fantastic series of blog posts about how she writes.  You can find them here...go ahead, I'll wait.

Good Stuff Huh?  Outlining is another good writing style that has its own peculiarities.

There are more variations on those themes than you can shake your writing stick at.  What's more, they are all perfectly valid styles.  Remember, there is no "Magic Bullet".  No one right way to do this.

There is, however, only one right way for you.

This may sound contradictory, but I'm speaking from experience here.  I've tried Seat of the Pants writing, and I've tried outlining.  I've grabbed at as many straws as there are methods and, in one way or the other, they've all fallen short.

That's not to say that I'm incapable of outlining or just writing from the hip, but after a while, it starts to feel like a pair of shoes that are just a bit too small.

When I write by the seat of my pants, I get off to a really good start (minus my tendencies to try and slip back and edit...but that's another post) up until I don't know where the story is going to go.  That hits me like a wall and I'm stopped.  I start thinking of ideas, and discarding ideas and not actually writing and it gets frustrating and it becomes work and then I notice that the dishes need doing or I really need a snack, or I need to clean the dog, walk the house, etc.

Initially, for me, outlining is a lot of fun.  You're creating a story and worldbuilding and getting down there in the dirt of your universe designing swords, magic, technology, spaceships, psychic abilities, time travel, and politics, and religions and...and then it gets to be too much.  I get hung up on a name for somebody, something, etc and I'll start kicking ideas around while another part of my brain is scratching at the door, wanting to be let out to play.

Eventually, for me, it becomes a "You've got to eat your veggies before you can have dessert" kind of thing.  It becomes work, and I suddenly remember that I've got to go water the truck or mow the goats, or milk the garden, etc.

The funny thing is, I don't really know how The Way came to me.  At one point, I was tinkering with a story and I just said to myself," Why not write the damn thing like you were telling it to yourself, or a friend?

So I did.

I called it a synopsis, but it isn't.  For one thing, if I turned in this 3000+ word monstrosity as a synopsis, any editor or agent would probably return it to me wrapped around a brick.

What it is, is me sitting down with myself and saying "let me tell you a story..."  Its a word of mouth kind of thing.  I don't bother with the details, just the broad strokes.  And it works.

Yesterday, I finished the "Synopsis" of my book.  I didn't let myself get bogged down with names, or complexity, but what I did end up with is the essence of a complete story.  I've got a beginning, a middle and an ending and a fairly good idea of how to get from one to the other.

Now, I can sit down and start writing the actual prose without worrying about what comes next.  I already have a good idea of what comes next and that's all I need to keep me going.

And now, I'm going to tell you the same thing that everyone else that writes about their writing styles will tell you.

This is what works for me.  No Magic Bullet, sorry.

If anything in here helps you become a better writer, then I'm glad to have helped.  This is what it's all about for me here.  If it doesn't work for you, then it doesn't work for you.

What I want you to take away from all of this is that if you keep looking and keep trying things, eventually, probably when you're not really expecting it, you'll find what works for you.  You'll find Your Way.

Now go write...