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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Your Way Is the Right Way

When it comes to writing, there are plotters and there are pantsers. Plotters are the people who do detailed outlines and know what's going to happen throughout their story. Pantsers sit down and write without a roadmap. Most writers fall somewhere in between these two ends of the spectrum.

One way isn't more right than the other. Writers have to do whatever works for them. If you need an 80 page synopsis and no surprises before they start, do it. If the idea of 3x5 cards paralyzes you, don't do them. Just sit down and write.

Somewhere along the way, pantsers have been told too many times that plotting is the only right way to write. It's not.

When I was 14, I decided I wanted to be a writer and tell stories. I went to the library and checked out all the writing books they had. Every single one was written by a plotter. The methods sounded torturous to me, but I wanted to be a "real" writer, and since all the books agreed that plotting was the way to go, I tried to force myself into that box. I even took my allowance and bought the vital 3x5 index cards.

Instead of being fun and a joy, writing became a misery to me. I hated doing those stupid index cards. I had no clue what was going to happen next, how could I write it down? I started doing everything I could to avoid writing and I finally had a realization. I'd never write again if I tried to do it the way the books said.

I threw the index cards in a drawer and said to myself, "Maybe I'll never be a real writer, but at least I'll have fun again."

Because of this, I'm hypersensitive to anyone saying their way is the "right" way to write. It's right for you. Do whatever works for you. If you need to write on lilac paper with an orange gel pen, go for it. If you need to fast draft and then go back and revise, go for it. If you need to totally soar into the mist and figure out the nitty gritty plot details on revision, go for it.

There is no right way!

And you know what else? Your process will change. Go with the flow and don't fight to do things the way you've always done them. What works on one book might not work on the next.

I used to be fairly far over on the pantser side of the spectrum, now I've moved toward the center. I'm still not a plotter. If my characters didn't surprise me, there'd be no point for me to write. That's what I love: the discovery and the surprises. Others don't feel that way. I'm okay with that. My way isn't the right way for anyone except me. Your way isn't the right way for anyone except you. Writing is hard enough without fighting your own process. Trust yourself and how you need to work.