Friday, June 26, 2015

Which Writing Rules Do You Break?

It seems that I've taken up the Slow Blogging movement.  Ah well, at least I am making progress on my WIP.  Real progress.  Daycare-enhanced progress.

And I've made it breaking many rules.

I've read tons of books and blogs and attended conferences on the craft, and I've learned that no two people do things the same way.  Still, there are these "rules", these myths about writing that keep on spreading, and in a way it hurts us.  Because we feel guilty when we don't follow the rules.  We think we're doing something wrong.

Let me tell you, the greatest writers didn't follow the rules either.

In the tumble of the past few years, where I've had so much trouble completing anything new, I've learned a lot about myself.

Here are a few that I consistently break, and why:

1. Write every day.  Trust me, I'd love to.  But life gets in the way.  It seems like the minute I hit my thirties, crisis after crisis has come my way.  And even where there isn't a big crisis, maybe I just want to spend a Sunday morning with the kiddo instead of writing.  Balance in all things.

2. Write your first draft quickly.  Nope, my first drafts are both slow and terrible.  I can't help it; it's my brainstorming phase.  I figure out the story best via prose, not outlining, but it is messy and it is slow.

3. Write till the end without stopping to revise.  I revise as I go.  The thing about novels is that usually there is a cause & effect for each event.  A leads to B leads to C.  So sometimes it's better to revise A before bothering to write C (since D might happen instead).  When you're running around without an outline, it happens quite often.

4. Blog often, in a predictable routine.  Ha! Maybe someday.

5. Don't let your family read your work.  I know not everyone is lucky enough to have family members who can give a good critique, but I do.  (I have learned that most non-writerly people are not so great at this).

So which rules do you break, and why?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

5 Reasons to Ditch the Outline

While writing by the seat of your pants is generally accepted as a viable method for writers, few people can actually verbalize why outlining just doesn't work for some of us.  Sure, we discovery writers often complain that we lose our creative juices when forced to work with an outline, but that is a vague and unsatisfactory explanation at best.

Story Trumps Structure by Steven James offers a better, more precise explanation, and I highly recommend it to others who want to try discovery writing.

According to Steven James, I'm not the only that comes across these five problems while trying to follow an outline:

1.  Events seem forced because I am following some pre-determined plot points rather than taking my cues from the details of my character, settings, and situation.  What I thought would be logical in the pre-planning stage might not actually be so when I flesh out the world in my draft.

2. Transitions between scenes can turn out weak because instead of writing what follows logically from the previous scene, I'm writing what I dictated in the outline.

3. Narrative weight of subplots is hard to predict until I flesh out the scenes.  It's hard to tell whether a scene will take one page to write or ten pages.

4.  This leads to problems with fulfilling reader expectations.  The more weight or time you spend on an aspect of your novel, the more readers expect that it will payoff in a meaningful way later.  However, at the outlining stage, you're unable to predict what will become important as you write it and to outline the correct payoff.

5. The climax may either feel as if it came from nowhere (because it didn't follow logically from what we know about the character/setting/situation) or it might feel predictable (because it takes time to come up with a truly unexpected yet believable ending and our outlining stage is often much shorter than the writing stage).

Not that discovery writing doesn't have its own pitfalls, such as falling into a rabbit hole you can't navigate your way out of.

What do you think? 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

On Resolutions and Evaporating Snowflakes

Another January arrives and after we've all finished exclaiming at how 2015 sounds like "the future," we do a little soul searching and try to come up with enthusiastic new year resolutions.  You know, those shiny things that look great in January and then in December half the time we can't remember what they were, and even if we do, we're not quite sure if we accomplished them.

Yes, for many of us, resolutions are made with good intentions but often end up falling by the wayside.  But each new year, we can't resist the sense of optimism that seeps into our skin as we strive to better ourselves.

Many writers will resolve to finally finish that manuscript they've been slaving away on.  Others will resolve to query or self publish or to move onto the next novel.  Still others might decide they need to step back from writing pressures and restore more balance in their lives.

Personally, I'm in multiple camps. I'm on the verge of getting some much needed daycare for my toddler.  It will only be two days a week, but imagine, if you will, the potential productivity of sixteen hours.  Are you grasping my excitement?  However, after some health problems I have also vowed not to put undue pressure on myself and to focus on maintaining myself as well as possible.  Wise people in this industry have said it before: write for yourself first.  That advice will be my mantra going forward...(says January me).

Whatever your aspirations are, there's no shame in taking a moment to take stock and make a resolution or two.  And if they end up evaporating during the year like last December's snowflakes, that doesn't mean they weren't fresh with hope and magic while they lasted.

Happy New Year!