On Writing–OWN IT — A Guest Post by Author Lynne Matson
Today I’m talking about craft. Specifically, I’m talking about the writing process . . . the act of getting the words on paper. Or in my case, into my MacBook Air’s document file.:)
Let me start with a disclaimer: I’m NO EXPERT. I’ve got one book published (NIL, a Young Adult novel coming March 4 from Macmillan/Henry Holt) and others in the works, but seriously, that doesn’t make me an expert by any measure. So I’m going get personal. I’m going to share the process that works for me, and share some thoughts on how you can find what works for you. Okay? Awesome!
Having said that, let’s start with someone who IS an expert: Stephen King. When people read his books, they think:
Because King IS a literary genius. His story-telling is legendary, and so is his book on craft, ON WRITING; it’s a must read for all aspiring writers. Think of ON WRITING as your starting point. Read it . . . savor it . . . and see what sinks in. One point King emphasizes repeatedly is the importance of reading, and I agree. Books inspire. Books can cure the worst writer’s block, reminding you why you love to write. Even better, books make great teachers. The more you read, the better grasp you have on writing nuances, on the effortless rhythm of beautiful prose, and on pacing. Reading is HUGE for writers. Read in the genre you write, then mix it up and read outside your genre. Read a memoir, read a novella. Just–read.:)
But back to the writing. From what I can tell, there are generally two sorts of writers: plotters, who carefully outline their entire novel before writing word one, and pantsers, who sit down and just start writing, letting the words flow from the idea that inspired them. ONE IS NOT BETTER THEN THE OTHER; THEY ARE JUST DIFFERENT. Different processes to the same end: a finished novel.
Me, I’m a panster all the way. I get an idea and run with it. For example, NIL was born in Hawaii, on the big island; I can still pinpoint the EXACT moment the story popped into my head. My husband and I were on our first real getaway from our four boys, EVER, and as we left the airport after landing, we drove through miles of ancient lava fields. Broken red rock stretched endlessly on each side, gorgeous and desolate. No roads, no buildings, no people–just the eerie sound of wind blowing over the barren rocks. I remember thinking how much it looked like an alien planet, and thinking how creepy it would be to wake up there, alone. And I remember thinking how scary it would be as a teenager, to wake up by yourself, not having a clue where you were or how you how got there, and what if–because isn’t this every person’s worst nightmare?!—you woke up naked? NIL was born in that moment. That barren-red-rock visual locked in my head, and that’s what Charley sees when she first wakes up in Nil. Within 20 minutes, I had the beginning and the end (which interestingly enough, never changed from draft one). I wrote almost 20 K over the next ten days . . . and the middle came together as I wrote.
Like NIL, all my books go through a similar writing process (though not on Hawaii…lol *wishes*)
It goes like this: I get an idea (like what if a girl woke up naked and alone in a mysterious red rock field?!), run with the what-if, figure out the ending and then fill in the middle. Once I have a first draft, I go back and fix in plot holes, adding threads to tie sub-plot together and deepening the story, and characters. If I were to outline from the start, it would kill my creativity. BUT THAT IS JUST ME. Many writers–wonderful, bestselling authors–make detailed outlines, full of personality and plot and little details that makes it possible to translate the outline into a full-length novel.
The key is to figure out how YOU write . . . to figure out what method works for you. Maybe it’s a detailed outline before you start, maybe it’s a skeletal one; maybe no outline at all. Maybe you just sit down and let the words flow. There is no one way to write: like your voice, your writing process is your own. So OWN IT. And the most important part? WRITE. Get the words on paper. It doesn’t matter if you’re a plotter or panster; what matters most is that you’re a finisher. Because the only way you’ll be able to share your story with the world is if you write it.:)
So the best advice I can offer? Read widely, guard your writing time possessively, and WRITE. You can always revise and edit, cut words and add more until you find the right words, but first you need a full draft to work with. Figure out your writing process, and OWN IT. It doesn’t have to work for anyone but you!
Remember . . .
Good luck and happy writing!