The right way to write. In my various roles I’ve been asked for formulas for how to write; where’s the ultimate place to write or the perfect time. I am afraid I have no magic answers to any of these – other than maybe you need a beginning, a middle and an end. It is all about finding out what works for you and your writing style.
Some people like to work in silence, others in noisy coffee shops. Some like Lucy Christopher has sometimes talked about a playlist linked with their novel. This can be the music they listened to while writing. Annaliese Avery posted a track of ‘white noise’ that she likes to listen to when concentrating. People like to write first thing in the morning before everyone is up or late at night after everyone has gone to sleep. Others might take snatched moments. There are those that aim to write every day and those, like me, who might write every few days, fitting it in around other jobs. I have written about this elsewhere. Writing is like a muscle the more you do it, the stronger it gets.
Some people love to handwrite first using a pencil (Blackwing), pen, fountain pen (oh the choices are numerous but I am definitely a Lamy fan) in to an equally glorious number of wonderful of notebooks – A4, A5, lined, blank, squared, Moleskine, Lechtturn etc. I confess I tend to use my notepads to write scenes in and all my research but always have to have a new notebook for each novel. Others, like me, will write straight onto the laptop. I do it because I can type faster than I can write plus I can read it! Again, there is no right or wrong way. It is what is right for you, and what is right for you at a particular time. It doesn’t matter if it changes.
As a writer you find that people will be very quick to tell you what their writing practices are and some may even insist that their way is the ‘ONLY’ way to write. You can’t be doing it right unless you are doing it their way. Wrong. (Unless of course, their way does work for you!) It is like having children, everyone has an opinion as to how you should do it. You need to filter it just like you do when you have children when you decide who to listen to. There are the experts who you work with that you know you can trust pretty well plus there are those friends whose advice is always sound such as maybe your crit group (find your tribe – I’ve written about that before too). From the rest, you pick out those golden nuggets that make sense to you. The rest you nod and smile sweetly at them and say thank you. Remembering always, this is your story, not theirs.
The other important thing to remember though is to be adaptable. As a writer, you will change and evolve. Sometimes this is forced because of the needs of an agent or publisher. Other times it is just as you become more and more experienced as a writer, your writing style develops. I found this myself recently. The publisher wanted a chapter breakdown for the contemporary novel I was writing. I struggled with this for a bit because I am a bit of a ‘Planster’. Let me explain. I am definitely not a detailed plotter/planner when it comes to writing. Neither am a ‘pantser’ in that I don’t just write it and see what happens…or not totally. I usually know my beginning and know my ending; I might have a couple of scenes in the middle, but the rest is definitely written by the seat of my pants. Therefore, coming up with a chapter breakdown really challenged my creative processes.
I could do it because I was able to use all the theories and skills, I had gained from writing Flight with Imogen. It worked well but it took me outside of my comfort zone. I completed that novel and sent it off to my agent last week. Interestingly, on the same day, a complete chapter breakdown for the next novel fell out of my head. This had never happened to me before. It seems my writing style has adapted. But these are my ways of writing. You will often hear how I ‘write cold, edit hot.’ I get a basic story down, so I know structure works then go back in a fill in the colour. I know plenty of people who do it the other way around: ‘write hot, edit cold,’ needing to cut out masses of words. As a writer, you have to find what works for you and don’t be afraid to try different ways until you find ‘your fit.’ This follows on from the last post where I said you never stop learning.
What I will assure you is even if you have written a book, when you are sat facing the blank screen, white piece of paper because you are starting a new project, the chances are for the briefest moment you will think ‘can I remember how to do this? Do I know how to write a book?’ We all do it. It never gets easier. Just try to enjoy the process as much as you can. However hard it is, it is still the best job in the world.