Friday, March 2, 2012

Is There a Right Way to Write?

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.


  1. I don't do any creative writing so I can't really comment on my writing style. But I think I would be very organised and have indepth files on characters lol.

  2. Creating detailed character info is something I like, though it can take days of research. When my character reappears later on in the novel, my files make sure his hair will remain the same colour and the limp hasn't changed legs LOL.
    (I've seen this happen in other novels...I kid you not!)

  3. One of the members of my writers' group is an outline fanatic. He gets a big roll of butcher paper, rolls out about ten feet, and starts somewhere before Day One. This really works for him! Contrarily, every time I outline, the first two paragraphs have some working resemblance to my outline, and then after that the What-Ifs and the Try-This-Types take over. On the other hand, once you start editing, keeping track of what I call "continuity issues" (i.e., something as relatively simple as the members of a ship's crew) becomes extremely important.

  4. Anonymous,

    That's why I create character files. It's like a grid that I fill in, so when I need to use him again, or if I am adding another character, details like uniform colour and such don't get repeated. I do this with all kinds of things, especially since I have to create technology and such.

    I read a book not long ago where every time they sat down to eat they were eating the same thing...400 pages, one menu LOL

  5. This is great! I don't do any types of creative writing, but if I did I would definitely use this post as a resource. Thank you!