Over at Justine Larbalestier’s blog, she’s been ruminating on the different ways writers write. In a post entitled ‘Other Writers Are Crazy’, she marvels at the writers who need to know every kink of their plot before they put pen to paper (figuratively speaking). She goes on in another post to analyse a few different types of crazy writers – take note, and avoid these behaviors!
How do you do it? Do you plan out every chapter with detailed lists of plot points and character developments and specific scenes you’ve come up with, and only start writing once you’ve filled a 120-page notebook? (I know at least two well-known writers who do it this way, mostly because they do a lot of research and have facts to include). Or are you at the other end of the writerly spectrum: do you write without planning, in a constant stream of creativity, without re-reading and editing until the first draft is completely done? (Editing, in this case, can sometimes entail cutting 300,000 words down to 100,000 or something similar; going back through the initial draft and picking out the bones of the story.)
I think it’s just a matter of how the brain works. Some writers need the structure of a solid plan, of knowing where the story goes, and knowing that while they might need to be flexible with sub-plots and things, they’ve got a good solid story structure going for them. And the other lot just lets it all stream out onto the computer, and is capable of cutting extraneous matter later on.
Personally, I think I’m somewhere in the middle (a lot of people are, I’ve decided, and it pays to be flexible). I usually have a beginning, middle and end worked out before I start, but the story I end up with is never anything like what I imagined. I don’t always work in a particularly linear fashion, either. As I finished my most recent story, I realised I had actually just written part two of something a lot longer. So I backtracked and wrote part one, and I’m about to get going on an unanticipated part three.
Like I said before, how do you do it? Working out what works for you can save a lot of time, and there’s really no point listening to someone tell you there’s a particular way you should do it. Take advice, take criticism, try out new stuff, but to tell the truth, there isn’t really a right way to write.