‘T’aint What Ya Do (It’s The Way That Ya Do It)

I don’t read a lot of ‘how to write’ books.  In fact, if you count the ten or so that I began and threw to the couch in disgust, the amount read still probably wouldn’t amount to one book.*

Mostly I just don’t like being told what to do.  But there’s also a part of me sceptical enough to believe that there isn’t one, general, shrink-wrapped way to write.  And then there’s that whole problem of: “But I don’t do it like that!” that occurs every time I delve into a ‘how to write’ book.  Apparantly one should always have an outline.  One should plot well in advance, with a detailed plan that cites every skerrick of the ‘who, why, what, when, and where’.  And how.  If one does not, one is a pantser**

The fact is, I quite often sit down to write with only one character in mind.  Sometimes I have an idea of a plot, but more often it grows and twists as I write.  I’m more likely to start with a character or a relationship than I am to start with a plotline or a story.  Yeah, it means I have a lot of work to do in the editing and re-writing, but that’s what works for me.  I love watching my plot grow and complicate.  I love that fact that seemingly random bits and pieces come together to form a cohesive whole, driving the plot on in my mind.  I don’t even mind going back to foreshadow things that need foreshadowing.

So now I’m curious.  How do you write?  What works for you?  Are you a pantser***?  Are you an outliner****?  Do your characters drive the plot, or does your plot drive the characters?  Are you perhaps a lover of *gasp* purple prose?

Let me know.  Oh, and read Patricia Wrede’s ‘Wrede on Writing’.  It’s good.

 

*Caveat here to say that Patricia Wrede’s ‘Wrede on Writing’ will be excluded from this rant, since it’s made up of excerpts from her blog, and I’ve always found her particularly helpful.  Also Diana Wynne Jones’ ‘Reflections on Writing’, because I haven’t read it yet, and she’s awesome.

**And you wouldn’t want to be a pantser, now would you?  No, you wouldn’t.  Good writer.  That’s right.

***You naughty writer, you!

****I promise I won’t hold it against you.

6 thoughts on “‘T’aint What Ya Do (It’s The Way That Ya Do It)

    • There always seems to be that one author’s how-to book we connect with, and all the others make no sense. I reached a stage in my writing a few years back where I thought ‘I guess I’d better start really learning how to write, now that I’m serious about being a writer’, so I sought out the how-to books. Then I discovered that I’ve learned more reading books by great authors (and the really dreadful ones, too) than I ever will with the how-to books that are all telling me I’m doing it the wrong way anyway 😀 Who knows, maybe I really am doing it wrong. Works for me!

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      • Agreed! This “Read like…” book is like the reverse image of a writing “how-to.” She gives excerpts from great works and why they are so perfectly written. Non of the crazy talk about plot and theme and story curve and breaking points and blah blah blah. As a result, I read my 1st Flannery OConner book and was blown away! Great writing , read with care, just sinks into your pores! And a subscription to Grammarly to help correct stuff spell check doesn’t get and you’re set!

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  1. This is a whole new thought for me…perhaps one I needed to read! I have stories that I want to pen, and the ideas, characters, settings, plots, etc jotted down, but I never seem to quite know how to start just…writing. Maybe I should try your way haha. Just delve right in and see where it goes (:

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    • It depends on what kind of a writer you are, I suspect. I work well flying by the seat of my pants: other people work best with an outline. And then, of course, there are the exceptions- the book you just can’t write without an outline, or the one that demands to be written straight away without any kind of planning. I usually just sit down and write, but there’s one book I’m working on that I’ve had to actually plan for. It’s kinda nice doing things a different way.
      But in the days when I was trying to write down character sketches and outlines, etc- well, the outlines and character sketches got written, but the book never did!

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