Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Way or the Highway

There are as many ways to write a book as there are writers.

If you think you didn't read that correctly, here it is again:
There are as many ways to write a book as there are writers.

Our paths to publication and beyond are a journey of learning and changing to discover what works best for each of us.  And even when we believe we've found that best, it's possible to be surprised by the something new that works even better.

While I've blogged many times about the benefits of plotting, it isn't an absolute necessity when writing a book.  Many writers are able to sit down and pen a wonderful story without plotting a single bit of it.  Oh, how I sometimes envy them!

But writing is a craft, and there are things in writing that are static because they're expected by readers.  It's best to learn the basics first, then add the frills and extras later.  Each of the following has some wiggle room, so do some studying and find out what works best for you.

A novel needs:
  1. A beginning, middle, and end
  2. Characters (more than one makes it more interesting)
  3. in what the story is about
  4. Setting
  5. Conflict
How a story is created and written is where we each go our different way.  Your "how" will be different than mine or Stephen King's or Nora Roberts' or Dan Brown's or the guy down the block or...  You get the picture. :)  But no matter "how" we do it---from beginning to end, end to beginning, from the middle out, or a scene here, then another there---in the end we have a story.  

Learning what way works best for each individual can be ongoing.  When I hit a snag or something isn't working as well as it once had (usually in the area of plotting or characterization), I often try something new and different that someone has suggested.  No matter how small or where it came from, it can make a difference.

When I first began writing (as an adult), I did it because I enjoyed creating a world and characters, especially characters I could manipulate!  Ah, the power of control!  But when the time came that I decided I just might want to try to have a book published, things changed.  I realized I couldn't just sit down and ramble, while my characters were off in one direction, then another.  I started researching the writing process.  While I realized that somehow I knew many of the basics, probably from inhaling so many books, there were--and still are--other things that need to be learned other than grammar, sentence structure, and even plot.

Gathering and learning new information is exciting.  There are thousands of ways and places to find writing basics and beyond.  Many of those are online, and an abundance of them are free.  Each will view a topic in a different manner.  If the first one you read or try doesn't suit, move on to the next, and keep moving until you find an "aha" that you feel will fit you and what you need.

Those who have been writing for a while often share what they've learned.  That's what's nice about groups such as Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, Sisters in Crime, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Mystery Writers of America...  Those are only the tip of the iceberg, and many of them have local chapters.  There are also local groups that are not associated with national or international groups.  Being a part of a group can be a huge benefit in a career that can be pretty lonely at times.  We've all been there at the beginning, and most people are more than happy to answer questions and help.

No one has a magic wand.  Nothing that's worth it is easy. Writing, like Life, is a constant learning adventure.    Enjoy the journey!  And do it your way.
"It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous." - Peter Benchley


Kim Batchelor said...

I totally agree, Rox. My first novel taught me how to write and every novel subsequent to it keeps teaching me. I have often advised writers to read their own book as they would any other book--often writers who are voracious readers don't pay attention to what makes the books they love work. Take your book to a new spot--a library, a park, an airplane--and look at it as you would any reader. You'll often find what it needs by following that simple process.

Rox Delaney said...

Hi Kim! I like that I keep learning, not only when it comes to writing, but everything. It makes life more interesting. The thought of reading one of my books is terrifying! But maybe one of these days I'll do it. One more way to learn that I hadn't thought of. Thank you!