Just Because It’s New

30 Jul

I’ve taken a ton of writing classes, read zillions of boPicture2oks, 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.

royalty-free-fairy-tale-clipart-illustration-1097911[1]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?


12 responses to “Just Because It’s New

  1. Corina Mallory

    July 30, 2013 at 7:32 AM

    I’m still trying to find my most effective process. I think once you’ve successfully finished a book, it must be really hard to try to implement anything new, process-wise, because you know that what you’ve done *works* and what if anything different messes that up? But because I don’t yet have a process that I feel is solid, I’m still in the experimenting stage, looking for what will work for me. Trying new processes is fun. In some ways it’s procrastination, but it’s productive procrastination.

    I spent a couple of hours on Sunday using the storyboard technique from Save the Cat on my WIP. Could I have spent those hours putting new words on the page? Yes. Would that have been a better use of my time? I don’t know. It helped me see a few structural problems with my book and set me on the road to, I hope, fixing them. Obviously, BIC, is the key and really only *necessary* part of the writing process. (Exception for those who use a treadmill desk.) But process ideas, are, for me, still helpful and interesting.

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 13, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      New ideas are always helpful. The trick is to figure out if the NEW is really helping or just throwing something else at your process. Along the writing journey I have picked up some very useful tips. I find that if you try something new on a short project you can get an idea if it will work for you or not and you haven’t committed it to a whole book.

  2. Judith Keim

    July 30, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    Great blog, Peggy! I sometimes think people get so bogged down by process they never quite finish the book. On Facebook the other day I read one of Nora Roberts quotes from RWA this year. She says, “if someone tells you there’s a right way to write, she’s a lying Xitch!” Got a good laugh out of that. However, there are certain processes and I hate to say the word, “rules”, that matter in putting a book together. But once you’ve participated in the basic seminars, the hundreds of how-to classes that are offered add little to them. The writing becomes yours and improves only when you write and rewrite!!

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 13, 2013 at 11:31 AM

      Nora’s right. There is no right way, but there are things that can help. The only way is like you say, write and rewrite. I’d add one more read. Not just fiction, but nonfiction and how to books of all kinds there’s alot of helpful information out there.

  3. Lynn Mapp

    July 30, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    Peggy, writing is soooo hard. I look for the “magic” process which with make it simple. I’m a dreamer that way.
    What I’ve taken from the many workshops are tidbits, little ideas to help me on this journey. I like the idea of the story naturally developing, my problem…if I don’t know what’s supposed to happen I get bogged down and don’t know what to do. Striking a balance is the most important thing for me.

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 13, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      We’ve been through a lot of processes together. I can tell you one thing…I don’t miss hauling that big green book around. It has it’s good points that I think helped us a lot. But after all these years we’ve settled into what works the best for us.

  4. marsharwest

    July 30, 2013 at 10:42 PM

    Once you learn some basics of craft, Peggy, then you have to experiment to see what works for you. Each of us is different. Can we learn some things from others? Yes certainly, but still and all it’s what works for us that matters. The colored markers helped me kick some emotion in to my writing and to see where I’d gone on too long. (You know. The way I do here sometimes. LOL) Once I do it a bit, then I can see other places I need to fix without the aid of the markers. They’re just a tool, along with the many others we use. But I like the BIC achronizm.:) The main thing for sure!

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 13, 2013 at 11:36 AM

      All the little tips and processes we learn are helpful. The colored marker system is great for just what you said, figuring out where you’re going wrong. I just can’t see me sitting down and coloring a whole manuscript. But it is helpful. We should always give new tools a shot. Who knows what will spark a great idea.

  5. Stephanie Berget

    July 31, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    The best advice I heard is BIC. If I don’t just sit and write even if I think it’s crap, I never get anything done. This is a great article. Thanks, Peggy.

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 13, 2013 at 11:37 AM

      Thanks. You’re right, there is no substitute for Butt In Chair.

  6. maryvine

    August 9, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    Good words, Peggy. I agree with Steph, butt in chair advice is the best for me. I find I am a pantster, too.


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