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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Process and Control

I've lamented my writing process more than once. My characters tell me their names. They tell me about their pasts. They refuse to move forward in a book if I do something they don't want to do. On and on it goes.

Mostly, I don't mind. At least not any more. I used to really wish I could pick the names of the characters until I had one that let me. I hated it. Maybe I got spoiled, but it was torturous trying to find this heroine's name without her telling me straight out or hinting at it at least. I hope I never have to choose another one again! It's just so much easier when I hear "Mika" and can go from there.

The thing about process is that mine always drives me nuts--until I hear someone else's process and I think, "thank God that's not me!" LOL. This is one of those cases where the grass is usually not greener after all. At least not for me.

I heard second hand that another writer said that she tells her characters exactly what to do and they do it. There are no surprises. That was definitely a thank-God-that-isn't-me moment. Hey, the fun of writing is the surprises. If my characters did what I wanted..well, why bother then? The only reasons I write involve 1. finding out what happens. 2. Watching the characters change and grow. 3. Discovering something new while I'm writing the book and having things that didn't make sense before, but that I dutifully wrote down, suddenly make complete sense. If I didn't have that, I'd just read other people's books. It's much easier that way.

But that's her process and it works for her. Before I say one more thing, let me stress writers should write whichever way works for them. Period, full stop. I've yet to meet anyone who writes exactly like anyone else and you can twist yourself into a pretzel trying.

When I was a teenager, all the books I found at the library were written by plotters. I couldn't write that way and I tried. I even bought the 3 x 5 cards. After a while, I realized this had sucked all the joy away for me. Sadly, I realized I'd never be an author because I didn't write like one. I decided to choose joy over conformity and resigned myself to never being a real author. It wasn't until much, much later that I learned that I'm not the only one who writes the way I do. There are other people who aren't plotters. The joy was amazing.

But this is also why I always, always tell people to do it their way and don't worry about anyone else. Because while the author I mentioned whose method leaves me baffled and thinking why bother to write, would probably look at my method and be appalled. But that's because my way wouldn't work for her. That's okay. We don't have to write alike. Heck, I rarely write two consecutive books the same way!

There are other authors who write a first draft of their book in weeks. That sounded great to me until I found out that it's only bare bones and they go back and flesh it out later. I can't do that either. Once I tell a story, I'm done. I can go back and do revisions to it, but those usually aren't too huge. I could never go back and flesh out a skeleton--I'd be too ready to move on to the next project. Again, different methods. Neither one is right or wrong.

I could go on like this for a while, but the bottom line is my process might be me trying to keep up with my characters who have the control. While I do try to improve the way I do things all the time, I also realize that I like my process better than anyone else's. Good thing, I guess since I'm stuck with it. :-)

Sorry if I wasn't as focused as I should be. I am hugely tired tonight.