There are certain guidelines to writing, at least when you go to study it. You will learn to outline and sequence. How to create a three act structure (depending on the medium in which you write.) Basically you will learn how to write a cohesive story in a thought out and organized manner that will make it easier to edit and redraft.
It’s a great system, and everyone has their own particular way of making it work for them and speed the process of their writing well making it easier on themselves, but thus far I have found it just isn’t for me…and that’s okay! In fact I’ll even tell you what is..aren’t you lucky! 😉
I am someone who sits at her computer, sits with her notebook and just writes. When the muse inspires me and wont let me go I just need to release its inspiration from my mind. Not to say that I don’t outline, but sometimes its not necessary to do it first.
This may sound a bit wacky, but let me walk you through my process a bit:
I try to push ideas away, and the ones that will not leave me alone are ultimately the ones that end up happening. ~ J. J. Abrams
When I get an idea that just won’t let up it mean that I have been thinking of a certain theme, creating a world where this theme exists, I keep coming up with ideas and twists that will take it somewhere unexpected. It mean that I have characters who inhabit this world already made flesh in my mind’s eye. It means that I have had personal asides as these character, be it in the mirror on my way out or as the mood strikes me in Shakespeare-esque asides. I have interacted as these characters creating dramatic interactions, reproofs, fights, snarks, humorous and playful interactions.
In a nutshell I now know this world and the people who inhibit it. So when I sit down to write it, it’s more like a private jam session. Taking my knowledge one step forward by making it physical. By playing with its form in the material realm and seeing where it takes me. If it has actual meat to its illusive structure or if its just a fun daydream.
This is how I can be surprised by what comes out of my proverbial pen. This is how characters and circumstances can take turns I hadn’t even expected.
I will even publish my starts to see how other’s react (this was on an old blog of mine that was lost in a cataclysm of technologies folly) and for my own attentions sake. I have no problem sharing a work in progress, I’ll even admit that sometimes I can be too eager. My youth is a testament to that! I mean first draft and done, no editing necessary, after all its about the story not the spelling or grammar – or the fact that sometimes my mind works faster then my keyboard and letters can get ahead of themselves as I through my dyslexic caution to the wind – right? Oy!
Recently I revisited an old story’s start, it was one that had a lot of potential but that hadn’t been the right time for me to see it through. It was more published playtime that just hadn’t stuck, but there I was in a semi-rut of my own between projects and feeling a little adrift.
Well I first reread it and it got me excited, got my brain churning with fresh ideas, like I was looking at this world, these characters with new eyes that the time between had allowed me to manifest and so I began to play, to continue the story from this new perspective. I had no idea where I was going with it I just knew that I loved what it was becoming. Loved the free flow of creative, of characters and development.
Fast-forward to page 86. Yes 86! I had more then proved to myself that I was committed to telling this story, committed to these characters who had grown so in-depth and interconnected in a way that any structured set up might have hindered. By allowing myself this time to play within the lines of the story I had established in my head I allowed it to breath its own life into its existence and become something bigger then originally projected.
I got to know these characters intimately like new acquaintances! Got to discover what made them tick, what made them love, what their inner most motive was and from there what would drive the story forward to its eventual climax!
When it came to page 86 – no particular reason why this was the number of pages I took pause at – I decided to structure. To create a loose outline that would create a more defined boning to the story’s trajectory. Now my “loose outlining” usually looks like Da’vinci’s backwards journaling, but it gets me through by giving me starting point to jump of of, an A, B and C if you will that I fill the blanks in with character.
It’s an ever evolving process, the outline sometimes falling to better ideas, more organic and sinuous manner then I have written down as planned, however it also helps to keep me in line when I draw a blank, when I hit a road block or loose my way.
I allow for structure and free-flow to work harmoniously together in a way that allows my creative to work through me, my characters to speak through me to create an environment that simulates the feeling of real life.
How often do our own best laid plans go array? This method gives way for life, giving way for a more fundamental story with humanity at the core of its arch.
Sometimes I think story can be too regulated. I’m not one for chaos, I like my I’s dotted and my T’s crossed. I have out grown my editing complex and know how many drafts it can take to make greatness. I have been called a perfectionist and am a stickler for continuity both character and world. I am a cannon fangirl and will ask myself all of the hard questions I would (and have!) ask anyone else. My way is not for everybody, but it works for me.
If I could have any writer learn any one thing from me and the way I work it would be to have fun, to play with your characters and their worlds. To allow yourself the leeway to simply create before bogging yourself down with purpose. Allow for organic free-flow to lend life to your work and realism to your storytelling.
Engage yourself. Engage the world, cheerleader. 😉