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Just Write – The Approach

Hey, Vivienne here.  Last week I stole Nike’s tag line and said, “If you want to be a writer, then just do it.”  I thought I’d follow up with a little series of “Just Write” thoughts.

Today’s thought is on The Approach to writing.  I jealously listen to authors say, “the story just came to me” or “the characters just go where-ever they want and take over” or some other magical the-story-was-licked-onto-the-page-by-fluffy-kittens type of tripe.  Those kinds of things never happen for me. 

My experience in creating a story is more along the lines of what YA author Kady Cross said recently, “I vomit up the first draft.”  It’s ugly, it’s sweaty, it’s noisy and probably smells bad.  But that’s how I get through a first draft.  And I’m happy to be in such good company!

My mother once told me that she had no imagination at all (it’s not true, but she seems to think it is) and that if you put a blank page in front of her it would stay blank.  I couldn’t imagine that!  Give me a blank piece of paper and I’ll create a story, or draw a picture or fold it into an origami cup.  It won’t stay blank for long.  But notice I wrote, I’ll CREATE a story.  That’s ‘cause I’m an idea machine.  I have tons of ideas, I’ve just historically been bad at follow through.

However, like in any undertaking, it’s important to know yourself and to acknowledge the things you are good at and areas where you suck.  I have learned that without an outline, a road map of what comes next, I end up with a never-filled blank page.  I’ll be writing along happily and then I get stuck.  I don’t know what happens next; I don’t know what scene to write.  Procrastination begins. 

I might do some “research” also known as wasting time on the Internet.  True research usually has a specific purpose.  The other day I needed to describe a flapper dress, I went to Google images, looked at some vintage flapper dresses, wrote about an imaginary dress based on the images and moved on.  This research took all of fifteen minutes at most.  Procrastination “research” can take up weeks of trolling around purposelessly. 

Or I might decide to edit what I’ve got written so far – a potentially endless task.  Or worse, I might find myself on bigfishgames.com downloading free trial after free trial and playing video games.  How I love Diner Dash!

At any rate, I’ve learned that while some people get their stories from kitten spit, mine come from diligent outlining.  I harness the idea machine and write a several-pages-long outline of all the scenes that might/could/should/will happen in the story.  Then I rearrange them into a nice order and I write them.  That way, when I choke, I know what comes next.  I might even skip around and write the scenes out of order if I’m stuck on a boring bit.  I can always connect them later. 

I told you it wasn’t pretty.

Today’s Secret: Identify your strengths and weaknesses and use them to your advantage.  No matter what “respected” authors say (don’t we all deserve some R-E-S-P-E-C-T?!) there is no wrong way to approach your craft.  Write your story however you want, but just write it.