Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Getting out of your own way

I've been thinking about plotting, about how writers approach a new book. If you've been reading my blog at all, then you know I'm not a 100% plotter, nor am I a 100% panster (writing by the seat of your pants). I'm whatever feels right, whatever my book wants me to be. Sometimes, I use notecards, sometimes an outline, and sometimes nothing at all but some vague scenes in my head, a few scribbled notes, and a set-up. And sometimes not even that.

So with that in mind, and a recent conversation I had with a young writer about how to approach your story, and how this particular writer was blocked, wanted to start out the right way, and aim for a very defined market, I will say what I said to him: "Get out of your own way." Sometimes (and I've done this, too, believe me) a writer can get so worried over how he thinks something should be approached or written, that he often finds himself stuck before he even begins. It can be overwhelming, especially when you want to do it right -- to write a great book and have it fit that niche you're aiming for.

There is no right way to write a book! Yes, obviously, there are elements required to make a book a book, but I'm not talking about that, I'm talking about The Process of writing. How you do it is a choice, it's whatever feels right. Plot one chapter, and free write another -- it's whatever works for you and the particular story you're telling. It's okay to have your own unique writing process whether it's seriously quirky or pretty standard. Some writers find a pattern that always works for them. Some, like me, find that with each story the process is different.

So, just get out of your own way. Don't worry about a right or wrong writing process. Do what feels right, and just write!


Rebecca said...

I have to say that I am 100% a pantser! 110% if the guy's butt looks particularly cute... oh wait. I've missed the parentheses. You were talking about writing, not cute guys. Darn.


K. said...


Kelly -- 100% panster as well. :D

Keli Gwyn said...

Good advice, Kelly. I definitely need to get out of my own way when I'm writing a rough draft. I do so much better when I stop worrying about the "rules" and let my characters tell me where their story needs to go. The clean up comes later when I can unleash the internal editor I've held at bay.

Unknown said...

Good advice Kelly. If you're thinking about how to start too much you're def not writing. So what if you wind up writing a bunch of stuff you cut later? It's that many more pages behind you and is probably making you a better writer.

Thanks for explaining "pantser", I read someone else say the "pants'd it" and was like ??? You what? ;)

K. said...

**waves** Hi Keli! :D

Thanks, Sue. And good points about writing. :-)

ccallicotte said...

Too true, Kelly. Excellent advice.

Merc said...

I'm with Becky on being a panster. O:)


A very good point, Kelly. Sometimes you gotta loosen up and just write without worrying so much about whether it's the right way.

Not that I follow my outlines anyway... the cast and plot rebels.

K. said...

Thanks ccallicotte! :-)

Hey Merc. Yep. Rebelling plots and characters...I know what you mean. :D