In my post Writing the Ravine: A View from a Rope Bridge, I had in the back of my mind my own habit of writing in circles. For me writing can be a slow and laborious process. Right now I’m about to tip into the second act of my WIP and yet I’ve become bogged down in the details. I feel like I’ve almost hit it – but not quite. So I’ve gone back and added in another POV character (feels better), spent some time fleshing out some back-story (motives now good) and have been tightening up timeframes and cultural identities (tedious and not quite there yet). And yet I still haven’t managed to push past the Act I climax. But then Scott left the following comment on the post which got me thinking:
I think my metaphor for my writing journey is a little different. I think I am the Forrest Gump runner who got up one day and took off. I had something bouncing around in my head that I wanted to write and so I wrote. As I went along a little, I realized that I needed a plan, so I drew myself a map of where I wanted to go (the outline for the rest of the large story I was telling) and I have been running that route ever since, occasionally stopping to check and see if that’s where I still want to go.
I have to say I was a bit envious. I want to write like that. I don’t want to be the girl who is so busy trying to tie her shoes properly that she never gets in the race at all. But it got me thinking, we’re all so different (yes like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates) and that’s really a good thing. I’m stoked that Scott knows who he is as a writer and is following after that with all his heart – because I have the same goal. To tell a good story. And to tell my story I need to tell it my way, and go about it in a way that’s going to work for me.
In the Lord of the Rings, there are a lot of heroes. There are those born to be King (like Stryder / Aragorn); the graceful and elusive Elves – fleet of foot and high of cheekbone (Orlando Bloom… er – I mean Legolas); the resolute dwarves – stocky and pure of heart (Gimili); and of course the short, hairy-footed hobbits who like their food and home comforts much more than running around Middle Earth and saving the world. Yet of all of these heroes the hobbits, the most unlikely of the bunch, were the ones who were able to destroy the One Ring. They didn’t do it by charging into battle in full battle regalia – more often than not they crawled away on their bellies to avoid the fighting because they were small enough to be overlooked.
My point is – you don’t have to be a pantster if you aren’t. You don’t have write 5000 words a day if you can’t. You just need to understand your own style and strengths and do what works for you. Even if it doesn’t look as heroic as you’d like.
Another example of this is the story of David and Goliath. When David fought Goliath he was still an unproved young man charged with tending his father’s sheep. Yet he was able to convince the King to let him face the Philistine champion. The King dressed David in his own tunic, gave him a bronze helmet, armour and a sword. David, however, wasn’t used to wearing all the battle regalia, so he took them off. He preferred to face the giant as he tended the sheep, with smooth stones and a sling-shot. And we all know how the story ended. One stone and one dead giant. But it might have been quite different if he’d tried to fight the battle any other way.
So for me – I’m trusting my gut. I’m an edit as you go kind of girl. It’s the way I write. Sometimes I wish my inner-editor would let me get more words on paper. But I guess then I’d just be proud of my numbers – when it’s the story that counts. The benefits are that I feel better if I’m working from a solid foundation and I won’t need to edit as much later on. So when I suspect I need to tighten and work on back-story I will, even if it means it takes a little longer. And I’m learning not to worry so much.
But there are many, many other ways to write your story. It’s better not to compare, rather to try and glean nuggets from others that might improve your own process. I tip my hat to Scott who sets his goal and runs after it. You might plot, you might pants, you might edit as you go – or not. But find your rhythm, and enjoy your writing journey your way.
What kind of writer are you? Are there things about your writing style that frustrate you? That work really well? How has your writing process changed for the better? I love to hear from you.