I’ve taken a ton of writing classes, read zillions of books, and tried just about everything. What I’ve learned over this process is mostly you already know how to write. I’m not talking about pacing, point of view, or story structure. Nope, those classes are always helpful. I’m talking about the how-to classes. I’ve tried the different colored marker system. It was pretty on the page, but wasn’t helpful for me. Using the outline the whole-book system, my mind tends to wander and the outline quickly becomes scratch paper. The Pages and Pages of Back-Story system, I’ll be honest, my memory sucks and I’d spend so much time rereading the back story that I’d never finish the book. And the classes go on. Through all this I learned one thing. I still have to get the story down on paper the way I’ve always done it.
That’s not to say I haven’t picked up a few very valuable tips that I still use, but my writing process has remained essentially the same. Get title, cultivate characters, develop plot, and BIC (Butt In Chair). Okay, there is a little more to it than that, but not much. The point is I write the way I write.
I’d never tell you not to take classes or give a new system a try. What I am saying is don’t spend months and months trying to force a new system on yourself. It’s not only a waste of time, but it can disrupt your voice and the flow of your stories. There is an organic component to writing. If it’s organic for you to write a hundred pages of back story, go for it. But trying to insert something that isn’t natural to you will only do harm.
If you’re having trouble with a scene, take what you’ve learned in those classes and plug it in to one of the systems you’ve learned about. The marker system can give you an insight into a scene, but to color a whole manuscript…well that’s a lot of marker time. Writing out some backstory can help you clear up a current problem with a character. The idea is to use what you learn in those classes as a tool and not take everything as the end-all be-all to writing.
What tips have you learned along the way that have helped you?