One of my first writing instructors recently posted that she would tell her students to “Outline, outline, outline!” because that is what worked best for her. When I hear the word ‘outline’ I cringe…because letting go and writing, seeing where the adventure takes me and discovering all its wonders AS I write, is what works best for me…and I believe that that is where the secret lies.
What works best for me might be the death of you. So how do you know WHAT to do? Give it a try. Listen, ask questions, take notes, and try it out. To be the best you can be starts with the understanding of who you are and how you work. If you think you have to have a special writing space, designated time, background music and a cup of Earl Grey to be productive, well…sure, why not? But have you TRIED any other way? How do you know beyond a doubt that it has to be so? How do you know that you can’t write on your train commute amidst the noisy passengers? You might discover you are wasting precious writing time.
Observe human interaction, body language, speech patterns, intonation and setting. Describe clothing, features, gestures…
Take one person and let him or her come to life on paper. Create conflicts, interactions, secret situations and what ever you feel like.
Does your writing feel like a job, a school assignment, a documentary or an adventure?
Personally, I like to do my research. I keep technical files. My character files have things like hair and eye colour, physical and personality traits, along with other info I can call up at any instant. I create these files AFTER seeing what my character looks like. However, when it comes to my story, I watch my character(s) come to life and I write what goes on as it happens. No plan, no structure…I’m along for the ride. (I need SOME form of starting point –even if that happens to be the middle of the book). I simply let go and write. The last thing I want is a step by step structure stating who, what, where, when, why and how…
I do admire my overly-structured friends, they intrigue me. I think it’s great that they function that way. I tried it and it didn’t work out for me. It made writing painful and a chore. That is how I know it wasn’t right for me…but what about you? Do you know how you function best? I discovered that with the constant interruptions of my two-year-old I had to learn to focus and keep my train of thought while I stopped my writing to tend to her needs. When I returned to the computer a little later on my idea was even better, my vision sharper, more dynamic. Pretty cool trade off. Now, when I sit down in a rare moment of undisturbed (silent) writing, I can dive into my story and produce pages and pages.
So if you want to write, write. Don’t stop yourself because you think your conditions aren’t ideal. Until you give it a try, you’ll never know what you can do.