As a writer, I tend to read tips and tricks on how other people write, and stay productive.
- Write X amount of words per day
- Write the ending first
- Use character worksheets
Now, as any writer would do, I have tried multiple tips and tricks to try and make writing life a little easier. But in the end, I usually make it up as I go (as I also do in life).
I have used a character worksheet once, and it worked very well. I actually enjoyed it so much, that I have a collection of them. I don’t write every day, and I’ve never tried. That’s just not me.
But let me tell you about my favorite “best practice” that didn’t work for me.
Wait, you just said it didn’t work for you. But it’s your favorite?
Yeah, because it makes me laugh. Not the practice itself, but… keep reading, you’ll get it.
Make an outline.
Or, in other words, plan.
If you read back a little, I told you this doesn’t work for me. And yet, guess what? I still try and do it!
Now, when I say plan, I mean plan. I still plan, but there’s a difference between plan and plan.
I don’t like making outlines. I feel like I’m drawing the outline of a box, placing myself in said box, closing the flaps, and telling myself I can’t get out. That’s what an outline makes me feel like. Because, when I make an outline, and I start writing, and I get to a plot hole, or the next scene doesn’t turn out right, I quit. Yep, you read that right, I quit. I don’t throw out the outline, I don’t try to fix it, I just quit. That’s not being a good writer, I know, but that’s what I do. I get so mad, and so frustrated, and so sad, that I just walk away.
But, let me tell you a story. This last NaNoWriMo, I started writing a story based on a title: A Bloody Favor. I had a title, and my characters’ names, and that was it. And you know what? Two things happened:
- I finished with 50k+ words
- I LOVE the story! It’s not finished, but that’s easily remedied
It didn’t go the way I had planned it in my head, but since it was only in my head, I felt free to change it.
As you can see, I did plan. I planned a title, and two names, and as I was writing, I planned future scenes that I wanted, and they were actually able to go into the story.
For one story that I was writing, I wrote down a list of chapter titles, and the theme of each chapter, but not what was going to happen in each chapter. I never finished that one either, but that was because I got distracted with another writing idea (which I probably didn’t finish).
That’s another reason why I don’t plan, because when I do, I plan so much that I get tired of the story before I even start writing it. “Whew, that outline took a lot out of me. I’m tired, I need to sit down and rest,” for the next ten years…
As far as writing a story based on a dream, here’s my process: I write down the scenes that I dreamt, but I don’t try to write the story in the sequence of those scenes. I write down what I saw, and then I come up with the story based on that. I don’t base the story on the sequence.
I don’t make outlines. I choose a starting point, whether that’s a name (or two), a middle scene, what I want to happen at the end, a setting, a theme or lesson, or even an item*, and as I start writing, I let the story tell me how it wants to be written. I let the characters tell me what they want to say or how they want to act. I have come to the conclusion that I am not in control, and I love it. If the story is bad, it’s their fault. If it’s good, it’s mine (haha).
*I have a story idea based on a futuristic machine that can read minds. Probably because I watch Hunger Games/Divergent/Scorch Trials a little too much…
Some of my best stories were written because I had no plan. Well, that would make sense, because when I do plan, nothing gets written.
This post is inspired by the DIYMFA Book Club writing prompt, “The Danger of Best Practices”.
- If you would like to learn more about the book, click here.