I love reading blogs written by other writers, editors, publishers and general creative bods. I particularly love reading blogs on ‘writing’ and how to write better. That’s why in my own blog I like to explore the lessons I’m learning as I progress on my journey to be a writer.
But there’s a snag. In reading all those posts, without realising, I got myself caught up in thinking I should be doing something a certain way. Using a character template for example, and then getting caught up in which specific template I should use, whether I should be using one for scenes or settings, having to outline, or not outline, style of note taking, being a pantser or a plotter, editing as I go or writing to the end and then editing… the options are endless and I wrapped myself up in a big knotty ball of stress trying to figure out which was the best method of writing to produce the best story.
Ultimately I ended up not doing much writing but hopelessly trying to do all of them, and not actually producing anything productive. This problem is what led me to start the author interview series. I was fascinated (obsessed?) with other writers writing processes. I wanted to learn what their secret trick was. I was hoping for some nugget of inspiration or gem of knowledge that would tell me how I could write that best seller, or actually, and more importantly just finish my own god damn novel!
You know what I discovered…? There is no gem, no nugget and no secret. It doesn’t exist. And you know why? Because only YOU know how you write best.
I was busy interviewing Dylan Hearn on his writing process when I had an epiphany, a real one. It’s been known, and annoyingly I’m normally in the car. Anyway, this epiphany came out of a discussion on his method for developing characters, without trying to give too much away from his interview, he develops them through edits, not necessarily before sitting down to write the first draft. Commence one of those, really awkward self revealing moments when I was all like:
‘Wait, whaaaat??? You mean you DON’T have to know every single detail about a character before you start writing?’
hundred thousand pennies dropped at once, and all my weary up tight cogs clicked into place. It might seem obvious to you, but it wasn’t to me. I had been convinced I needed to have the perfect character before I started to write.
Apparently, you don’t.
And you know what else? You don’t have to have a bunch of other shit sorted either. You could, if that’s what works best for you. But you don’t have to. YOU DON’T HAVE TO. F*** my actual life!
Why was that so hard for me to understand? I’m a grown adult for goodness sake. I guess I got caught up in trying to work out where I sat on the plotter/pantser line. I always thought I would be on the extreme end of the plotter continuum. But I’m not. I like a good solid outline, with a couple of sentences outlining each chapter, and that’s it. I don’t want anything else. It wasn’t until Dylan told me he edits the characters to perfection during the editing stage that I realised why I had been having such an issue just getting on. I thought I needed to have perfection before I started, but I don’t.
Dylan did something else pretty amazing. It might sound odd, but he gave me the best gift I could of asked for.
He gave me permission to do it my way.
To ignore everyone else, put the advice to the side, and just figure out my own process. It was an odd realisation that I needed someone else to give me permission to do it my own way. I don’t really consider myself a conformist, in fact I revel in breaking the rules. So it was a shock to me that I couldn’t just give myself permission. But I couldn’t, and I suspect I’m not the only one. I guess because writing matters so much to me, I wanted to be sure I was doing it right, and writing the perfect way.
This epiphany leaves me in somewhat of a pickle, because now I don’t really know what my writing process is, I’m back to square one and half way through a book. But that’s ok, there’s nothing better than an adventure into the unknown, and I don’t imagine I will get it perfect on book one anyway.
I want to give you the same gift Dylan gave me….
I’M GIVING YOU PERMISSION
I’M GIVING YOU PERMISSION
Put the advice blogs down, put the writing technique books away, sack the ‘rules’ off and back away from any words of wisdom.
Get messy, get frustrated, get upset, get emotional if you need to, but do it your way, and enjoy working out what that is. I know I’m going to.