It’s a thin line between trying different things to find a method that works for you and, well, just going crazy. You’ll have to ask Stephanie and Shonna if I’ve lost my mind yet. But the way I see it is – it doesn’t hurt to order something new on the menu and see if you like it.
Last November during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), Stephanie suggested I let go of my analytical plotter’s tendencies and just write whatever came to mind. She reminded me that a mere four weeks was nothing in the grand scheme of things: NaNoWriMo was to be an experiment in speed writing. It turned out to be speedier writing than I anticipated due to the fact that I wrote 75% of the 50,000 words in the last 12 days! (We’ll be talking more about NaNo in the next few weeks.)
I was excited because I made the goal. But from a professional point of view, I’m not sure that what I did and the way I did it worked very well for me. I ended up with a beginning, middle and end, a lot of good usable scenes, but a lot of scenes that later needed to be trashed. Worse, I was writing in rabbit trails without clear direction.
So do I think that writing as fast as you can is a waste of time? No. It ignited my joy to just gush out the words. That sparked some great ideas and created more emotional scenes. I thought about my story constantly – eating, sleeping, driving, listening to sermons at church (shh, don’t tell!). But it took me months to plot and revise the book afterward, moving scenes, trying to figure out what worked, what didn’t, where I really wanted to go.
Am I saying writing slower and making a big plotting chart works better? Nope. I spent months on another book plotting and planning and writing out a short description of every scene. I had about 100 pages of notes and 75 manuscript pages when I just stopped. I opened the file on my computer one day and said to myself, why am I working on this? I wrote out the entire story already; I know what happens. I’d lost my joy.
I’m finding that for me what works best is to have a basic plot before I start writing. Then as I think of ideas or write scenes, I post them on my plotting board. The first draft is mine to do with as I wish – experiment, have fun, try a couple different options for “what happens next” – within the confines of the plot. That way, when I’m done and ready to start the revision, I have a pretty clear map to tell me where I’m going, but I also had a lot of fun making the map!
With this method, I end up with a complete manuscript faster than if I write as fast as I can without much of a plan (as I did last November). But I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t accepted Stephanie’s challenge. What about you? What methods have you tried, and what works best?