I used to have a Way I Write, and I was more or less proud of it. I was not a plotter, I wouldn’t touch an outline with a ten foot pole, and I never separated my story into chapters until the entire thing was finished. I also wrote my stories out of order, writing the scenes I could picture perfectly at the moment and then going back later to connect them and flesh things out.
Well, the last bit is still true, anyway. The others have slowly but surely changed over the last few months.
I’ve seen posts encouraging people to find their own way of writing and to not ever let someone else telling them they’re doing it wrong. In many ways, I agree. If it works for you, go ahead and do it. I love hearing about different people’s ways of planning and executing a story simply because they are often so very different.
But I think we need to remember, too, that just because you have a Way to Write now doesn’t mean it can’t change. I know I got so caught up in defining the ways that I write that I didn’t let myself explore other people’s methods as much as I could have. Who knows? You might find a new way of writing, one that works even better than the last.
Here are some methods I’ve encountered. I don’t use all of them, but I’ve tried most of them!
- Outlining using flash cards, one scene per card
- Outlining using colored sticky notes, one scene per note. One color for plot events, one color for character development milestones, etc.
- Outlining chapter by chapter in summary form
- Outlining like an ADHD goldfish with a love for shiny things (scribble down a three page outline. Realize three pages into story that you are going to be diverging from your outline. A lot. A lot a lot.) …in other words, how I do it 😀
- Fill out character forms (Adventures in Children’s Publishing has some great, very detailed ones) <— I love the idea of this, but have NO patience for it…
- Write up tons and tons of backstory that fills up entire binders and is longer than the book itself
- Interview your characters (I would do this, but my MC for HYBRID would clam up and my MC for the wip would look at me like I was crazy and then just…leave)
- Write 1st POV snippets from all your character’s POVs, even the minor ones (I do this for characters who don’t have the POV but need to have their voices fleshed out)
- Write present tense biographies for all your characters and read them in your head with all the solemnity of those History Channel guys with the deep voices (guilty)
- Stare at a blank page and write down, stream of consciousness, whatever comes to mind that’s even vaguely related to the story (it works, too!)
- Read other books in your genre until you’re inspired (done and done)
- Bug your CPs on gchat until they agree to brainstorm with you. You’d be surprised how the ideas start flowing more easily once you’re talking to someone else about it (*raises hand*)
- Write where in the story you are at the top of a blank page, write where you need to get at the bottom of the page, and try to build a bridge of events from one point to the other (works even better if you get fancy and start doodling actual bridges)
- Watch TV and vegetate (heck, I’ve done just about every kind of brainstorming there is to do!)
Well, I think that’s enough for now. Hope some of these ideas catch your eye and help next time you need a new way to tackle a problem. Any other issues you’d like me to write up a list of methods for? 🙂
Any methods for tackling the above that work for you?
Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She has recently signed with literary agent Emmanuelle Morgen and spends most of her free time whipping HYBRID–a book about a girl with two souls–into shape for submission to publishers. You can read more about her writing process and books at her blog.