Monday 8 May 2017

Being a Hybrid - The Creative Process


One thing I have learned through the years that I've been a writer is that there are always going to be some things that work for you, for me, but don't work for other writers. I get messages on Tumblr, and other sites about how much planning I do before I write a book. And one of the big things I see other writers being asked is: do they outline and plot? Or do they fly by the seat of their pants and make it up as they go along? Something that always rang true for me was that I couldn't completely go by the seat of my pants, but yet I never seemed to do the detailed outlines and planning that I see other writers doing and/or talking about. So what was I? Basically I'm a hybrid.

Today I'm going to talk about my writing process from the very beginning to where I am now. I've been writing for over fifteen years, been published for almost twelve and still writing pretty much every day. I know that a lot of my readers are other writers at various points on their journey as well as readers of my works and others. So I'm gonna make one thing really clear. What works for me may not work for you. This is not a solid guide to how *you* should write, but more about how I write. If it turns out that it helps and works for you. Great! If not, then that's fine too.

My writing process is different to a lot of other writers. I have always been someone to have some idea of what comes next in the story. In the years I was writing the Dying Thoughts series, I found it easier to ease back on the planning and let the juices flow on their own. In a way that's what made me make the switch from detailed planner to kinda making it up as I go along. As a hybrid, I walk the line between someone who plans to the tiniest detail and someone who doesn't plan at all. I have my system and it's always been something that had some level of adjustment to it. Looking back at the way I planned my first few books and the way I plan now, I don't really remember completely when I made the switch. Of course, if I'm really honest, I don't think there *was* a switch.

Going back to writing Blackout, did I plan in detail? Outline and work out every plot point? No, I didn't. I had a notebook and wrote out ten chapter headings and then went from there. Same with the characters, they were in that same notebook. When I moved onto note cards, I did more planning character wise, but I have always kind of stuck to a chapter plan that contains minimal information. It's only been when I've done planning for the books while writing another one, that I've done any kind of outline. Even then, it's just thoughts and scenes rather than plotting out the whole book. It's a method that works for me, has done my entire career and it's a method that allows me to keep motivated and on target with the story. So, I embrace my hybrid status and know that while it's not for everyone, it is for me.

But, I hear you wonder, don't I get writer's block? Yeah, I do, but not much. I usually get it when I'm telling myself that it has to be perfect to mean anything. Other things it'll be because I'm struggling with other aspects of my life. And rarely, and I mean very rarely, I get blocked because I don't know where to go next. In those cases, planning would help me. And if you're finding that you need to plan otherwise you stay blocked, then I completely agree that you should. The creative process is different for everyone and you should be using whatever works to keep those words flowing.

On the other side of it, I know a lot of advice given to new writers is that they should outline and plot and plan and have everything ready from start to finish in intricate detail otherwise they can't start writing. There are of course the other writers who don't plan and tell you to just pick up pen and start from there. I'm basically saying that there is a middle ground. You can be both, and it is okay. As a writer I have found that sometimes I've done a chapter plan and my story chunks and then the plot swerves and the story changes. Planners would tell me that would mean my outline needed tweaking, and maybe they're right, but in my eyes, the way I write works for me. I enjoyed going in with the bare minimum but I also enjoy having the option of doing more.

I like to think that bar a few grammar rules, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing. So many times you'll be told to do this and not do that, to never do that. But the things is, there are always loopholes. Part of being a writer is learning which ones to follow and which ones to bend. Part of writing is looking for those loopholes and making them work for you. Though, as always, your mileage may vary.

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