Ignoring Writing Advice


Ignoring Writing Advice

I’ve never been much for following the rules. Which may or may not be why it takes me a year or more to write a novel. There is so much advice out there on how to get started, how to write, how to edit, etc. that is sometimes contradictory. I’ve sifted through the Internet, bought books, and quizzed author friends. Worksheets abound on outlining, beats, plotting, character development, character motivation, scenes, POV, world building, query, synopsis and more story ideas than you can shake a computer mouse at.


I’m a pantser. I tried being a plotter, I really did. It didn’t work for me. I went back to pantsing, and I’m much happier. I prefer to do all my organizing afterwards. Which may not be the best way, but it’s the way I like, and it may take longer. It works for me. It may drive me crazy at times, because conventional advice insists you do certain things at certain times in the noveling process. Good luck with that.

I jump right in, feet first, without looking to see if there are rocks below. I have an idea, it’s usually is in my head a year or two before I start writing. I ponder the characters, run scenarios through my mind, over and over. I play the ‘What If’ game. I love the What If game. I love circling around and around ideas until the story firms in my mind. Or turns to Jello.

Then I write.

I sit down and write frantically, from beginning to end, seeing where the story takes me. Then I rewrite. Then I do a third draft, fine tuning. I’ve been informed this is not the way to do it. That I waste a lot of time with the rewrites. I probably do. For me, it’s like building a sculpture. I smooth layers of clay over the foundation, and little by little the form emerges. Sometimes things jump out at me like a boogeyman from the closet. Other times it’s the drip-drip of a leaky faucet.

In my current novel, the first draft was in first person. Reading it through, I realized the story wasn’t solely about her, and another character needed his time on stage. Demanded it. Since I hate multiple first person POV novels, I changed it to third person, and immediately felt more comfortable. My other novels are in third person, that’s my happy place. I always wanted to try first person, and now I feel I can do it. When the right character comes along and is greedy enough not to share stage space.

So, rules. Like making up a character sheet for each character—I don’t do them. I carry the characters in my head, (it gets crowded in there). The problem with character sheets, is, they’re not made for fantasy characters. I suppose you could twist them to fit, but the character’s magic ability, and what effect it has on them and the world needs to be addressed. So I made up my own character sheet of sorts for fantasy folks. And quit using it as soon as I figure out the elements that fit the story. Yes, they are useful for things like height-weight, eye color, hair color and the like. But I’ve never ‘interviewed’ my characters, or built a character arc step by step according to formula. After a year of thinking, I know what they want, where they start, and where they should end up. Figure out what works, and go from there. Doesn’t work? Toss it in the cut file. For me, it’s all about the journey.

What am I trying to say? To quote Fleetwood Mac, “Go your own way”. It could be messy, it could explode in your face. It could take time. It could be a hell of a lot of fun. That’s why I’m in it, for the fun of creating my own world, and populating it with characters I like. Or hate. And guess what? Most of my characters don’t follow the rules, either.

Imagine that.

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