Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Writing Methods

Okay, so this is the first post in a writing themed blog chain following the theme of writing methods. Hopefully, if you are reading this you will click on the link to the next blog in the chain, and then the one after that and so on.

Now you can Google fiction writing methods and come up with a ton of results from experts, yahoos, and everyone in between. When it comes down to it though the writing method that has worked best from Aristotle all the way to little old me is sitting down in a chair (or if you want to sit on one of those balance balls to work your core - more power to you) and just freaking do it. This is a lot more easier said than done.

Although I have been writing stories pretty much since I figured out how to string a sentence together, and I have piles (literally) of notebooks stacked in my poor parents' basement and in my own home filled with my writing - it was not until last year that I finally wrote my first novel.

So why then? What made me finally just freaking do it? Honestly, I don't know. One day I opened the laptop and typed a few sentences - maybe two paragraphs tops. Not even a full page. Then my son, Jamie, started crying so I went to pick him up, and feed him and run errands and just basically be a mommy. Except as I was doing these things I thought about this character and a story started to emerge. That night after the baby went to bed, I wrote a bit more - just getting one full page down. It was enough. I decided that was my goal - to keep going with this story one page at a time. I had a vague idea of where the story would end (um, it was a romance so, ya know, happily ever after is pretty much a given), but there were a lot of surprises along the way.

It wasn't totally seat of my pants though. A few days in, I opened a second word document and used it as a place to dump the ideas I was having for further into the story (around this same time I became determined to lose the thirty pounds of baby weight still hanging on me, so I was spending time on the elliptical and this became a great place for me to think ahead in the story or tackle problems in the narrative.). I also had the screenwriting 3 act structure that I had learned in film school and I used this to give my novel it's basic structure. Finally, when I reached what I called the "midpoint" I decided that needed a little more structure, so I basically wrote out little scene by scene snapshots with bits of dialogue or whatever else occurred to me at the time - that went all the way to the end. Then I just followed that - not religiously - some stuff didn't work, so I changed it, but mostly it was a good map to get me to "the end."

I started my book in mid-September and in mid-December I had a 95,000 word novel. The one thing I haven't mentioned is that everyday I wasn't certain if I could keep doing it. Even as the words and pages kept adding up, something in me believed that it was some outside voodoo force motivating me to keep going. Somewhere along the line I ditched that idea. Maybe it was on one of those days when I really didn't feel like writing. I wanted to nap, or read a book, or watch TV, or pick my nose - anything but write! But I wrote anyway.

So, that's my not so magical writing method. Please, visit the other blogs in this chain to see what other writers have to say! (Psst! You can find links to all of them in the sidebar!)