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Not someone else’s process, but yours.
This is not another article on how to plot your book or get into your character’s heads. Those are both important and necessary goals. But how YOU get there may have nothing to do with GMC, extensive character interviews, or breaking down your ideas into scenes and sequels. During a recent ‘Chat with Susan Anderson and Caroline Cross,’ Caroline made the comment that writing is about learning the process that works for you and taking ownership of it. Her comment sparked with some thoughts I’d been having lately about the process of writing.
As writers, we are interested in words and how to convey a certain idea in the best way possible. This sometimes leads us to putting boxes made up of ‘how-to’ walls around our creative muse. I remember the first time I heard about the debate between being a plotter or a seat of the pants writer. I thought I knew which one I was until I wrote my next manuscript. You see, first I was convinced I was a plotter and then when I deviated from my plot cards by scene three I thought, ‘I must write by the seat of my pants.’
Recently, I had to accept I am both. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. I’m a schizophrenic writer! I can’t make up my mind about how to write a book.’ My creative muse was all folded up inside a tight little box. The walls were made up with some pretty common labels: Plotters vs. Seat of the Pants Writers, To GMC or not to GMC, Write the Book of Your Heart, Write for the Market. Powerful concepts, but as with any label, applied with absolutes they are also powerful restrictions to the personal writing process.
When Caroline said that as writers we need to take ownership of our process, it all finally gelled for me. I have a process and it works very well for my muse. It’s a three-step process and which step I begin with depends on how much I know about my next story when I’m ready to start and what mood my muse is in. I’ve finally accepted this is okay. I don’t have to follow someone else’s pattern to write a good book. I don’t have to analyze my characters and determine their types in order for them to have depth.
As a person who functions in both my left and right brain depending on my mood (not necessarily my situation), I must accept that my writing is going to follow the same pattern. How about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you swear by GMC or write blind, going back and starting over when a direction your book has taken doesn’t work? Or maybe you’re just a little like me, a bit schizophrenic in your approach to your books and sometimes that makes you feel guilty because you don’t fit under any one label very well.
No matter how you write, one thing remains true. The process that works for you is YOUR process. It’s part of your voice, your uniqueness as a writer and you should not compromise that process to fit with someone else’s label or well-meaning how-to concept.
I’m about ready to start a new book. I wonder which step of my writing process my muse will lead me to first. It doesn’t really matter, as long as I stay true to myself and the vision in my head for the story. Because if I do that, I’ll have those special moments of magic telling a story that comes from my heart.