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The Writing Process – Do you Pants it or do you Plan it?

September 11, 2018

So are you a seat-of-your-pants kind of writer or do you outline your plot and character’s personalities?  I do both.  It suits me and my personality.  There is no right way to write when it comes to starting a creative writing project. Do what suits you. You may find you change over time to practice the best fit for your creative juices to flow.


If you are a planner, a serious planner, you would probably be more comfortable outlining your plot in detail by chapter.  If you’re writing by the seat-of-your-pants, you probably have some great scene ideas or characters you want to play with and see where it takes you.  I have found that how you start your writing process and work through your ideas is as much of a reflection of who you are as your stories.


No matter how good of a writer you are or how wonderful your idea is, you will still need to go back and rewrite. And rewrite. And maybe, rewrite.  Then you’ll give your finished work to an editor. Hopefully, you’ll give your work to an editor. We all need editors.  They see things we don’t because our projects are perfect in our eyes. Or we wouldn’t be handing them over to an editor. Right?


Then your editor comes back to you about content.  “Tell me more about this character’s dead relative?” “You have too many adverbs – do a search on ‘ly’ and change those words.” “This isn’t clear.” “Why did you put that in the story?”  So you revise your previously perfect work.  And you revise again because changing those few things, changes everything.


I don’t share this with you to discourage you.  On the contrary, I think you should write your ideas and share them. I finished writing my beautiful, amazing manuscript in April of 2017.  I felt like I gave birth.  Which I did, to a new little book, sixty thousand words worth.  I thought that was a good weight for my new creation. 


Then the revision process happened.  I couldn’t edit it. 

I told myself, I was distracted by summer. Fall came and I still couldn’t edit it.  When I finally sat down to do some serious writing, I rewrote the entire book and changed it.  I finished the slim forty thousand word creation in March of 2018.  The story was better.  My characters were dynamic. My scenes were a necessary part of the plot progression. The ending left the readers wanting more.  Just what I wanted!


When I first starting writing, I had to get over myself. 

Whenever I tried to hide my true self, my writing was terrible.  When I just embraced the idea, the scene, the character, my story had a life of its own.  I challenge you to put your best ideas, here and now, down in written form. Don’t try to hide behind a mask, don’t worry about what other people think.  Just write and let yourself express your ideas.  Don’t start correcting or editing or analyzing your work.  Not now.  Just write.


There’s a place for the corrections, edits and analysis of your work but that’s after the birthing process.  Create first.  And educate yourself on the writing process.  Find what works for you.  Try to connect with fellow writers.  Writers have such a great perspective of their surroundings and a wicked sense of humor.


When I’m working through a scene transition and don’t know how to get to point B from point A, I meditate.  I don’t meditate on the story, I meditate on me.  I ground and center myself.  I work on whatever is going on in me.  Sometimes, I do walking meditations, outside just being in the moment of here and now. I check in with all my senses.  I breathe.  At the very end of my meditation, I think about my story and set my intention to write my best.  Then, as you return to reality, don’t think about your story.  Get your cup of coffee or tea and settle into your writing environment.  Concentrate on being comfortable with you before you crack the whip over your head to produce quality work.


I have found I have one spot in my house that I write best in.  I have moved my writing space all over the house. Into spare rooms, the kitchen table, the living room sofa but the only place that my work truly flows is in this northeast spot in my room.  Maybe it’s because northeast is my best personal direction for growth if you’re tuned into the Feng Shui of your space.  I know it just works.  I did explore many other options before I accepted this to be ‘the spot’.


I see writing as a tapestry. There are all these colors and textures woven through the story to create the tapestry.  Sometimes I step back and look at the overall appearance of my work.  That’s when I see where the colors are missing and the textures need enrichment or maybe there’s just a stray string. This is one of the beautiful things about writing, you are the creator.


I also feel like I have multiple personalities while I’m writing my stories. In one story, I killed one of the main characters.  I was crying when I wrote it and I was crying when I read it.  When I was asked what was wrong, all I could say was, “She killed him! And he was such a nice guy.” When you live, dream and see the world from your character’s perspective, you’re ready to write for them. 


I do have some analytical practices behind all this feeling the moment stuff.  I have cards on which I write all the things I know about a particular character whether or not it’s needed for the story.  It goes beyond what they look like to things that they say or habits that they have.  I also pose the question to each character about their external and internal conflicts. It’s how I could finally write my villains. I had to get to know them and love them.


This might sound strange but when you accept that everything you write shows a little of your multifaceted personality, you need to accept all of your characters.  Even the ones that make you cringe at their behavior. In reality, they are just a reflection of the total 360 degrees of your personality.  Only you can understand and accept them because your readers don’t know them on the intimate level that you do.  They came from your imagination.


For those of you who have a great idea, get writing.  For those of you that have written your ideas, get feedback.  Honest feedback. Not the “oh, that’s nice” kind of feedback.  That’s useless.  I want to know if I can make someone feel my story. When did they get hooked? Do they want more? Or is it just a bunch of mumble-jumble?  Don’t worry if they don’t like it.  You want to know ‘why’ they don’t like it. It will help you be a better writer.


If you live in Leadville, Colorado, I highly suggest you sign up for one of Professor Runyon’s creative writing classes at Colorado Mountain College, (jrunyon@coloradomtn.edu).  The way his teaches and formats these classes are very useful to get real feedback and learn some important skills. 


Who’s your audience?  You have no control how they interpret your work. The best you can do is to try to guide them in the direction you want them to go without your audience knowing it. Every reader will see your work differently because they are relating it to their life experiences.


I also recommend The Secrets of Story by Matt Bird.  If you are finished with your manuscript, read this book to learn what to do next.  No, it’s not publish it.  Publishing and marketing is beyond this brief blog.  I’ll touch on those later.  In the meantime, join the Otter’s Writers on Energy’s Magic Facebook page.  Hopefully we can all help each other with tips and ideas.  There may be a J.K. Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien among us!

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