How Does Your Creative Brain Work?
Okay, you’ve figured out your schedule and have blocked out writing times during the week. Your goals are set and you’re ready to achieve them. How exactly do you get that writing done? What’s your writing method?
When I first decided to write, I had just lost my job. For a long time, ever since I was a preteen, I had wanted to write. So I decided to give it a go. I ended up writing a 995-page book that kept birthing subplots and the ending was nowhere in sight.
This is the tough part. We’ve got the ideas in our mind. We know what we want to write. But we don’t know how to approach our stories.
I’m sure that most of you have heard of “plotters” versus “pantzers” before. Basically, it refers to the method that an author chooses when writing a book.
Our brains are wired differently. Some of us will plot out our novels from beginning to end. The plotter will plot it, revise it, edit it, do character sketches, outline each scene, storyboard her novel, maybe even write her synopsis first, do tons of research, and so on and so forth.
That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with plotting and research. My only warning is that you don’t spend so much time doing this that you fail to actually complete a novel. I had a friend who did just that. She plotted, and re-plotted. Went to dozens of workshops, bought how-to books and replotted the same premise each time she found a new chart, or set of questions to ask her characters. She finally told me it was fear that kept her from writing the book–fear the book would be a flop. You mustn’t think this way! Quantity is what you control; Quality is what the Universe controls. And you can always edit/improve on what you have written.
Think about it this way…you can do this plotting and thinking AND you can write your novel. BUT when you look at the big picture—you need to spend MORE time writing than anything else. If you’re not doing this then you will not be able to produce near as many novels. That’s a fact.
As a result of my “attempt at being an organized plotter,” I discovered (much to my amazement) that I was really a Pantzer!
This shocked me.
A pantzer is someone who “writes by the seat of their pants.” We don’t spend a lot of time figuring things out BEFORE we write. We just write.
What I’ve learned about myself is that this often takes my novel in a completely different direction than I ever could have imagined it going. It is so wonderful for me. I simply couldn’t do it any other way.
Does this mean you can’t plot at all?
No way. I still have a very sketchy/vague plot in mind before I begin, and I always have the Big Black Moment in mind, (or the climax). I have to write the first scene. Then I go back to the drawing board and figure out the characters’ GMC (goal, motivation, inner and outer conflict). I might know a couple of turning points, like the midpoint. But I don’t plot or outline every scene in the book because I don’t want to be a slave to that scene. Too, if I think of a better midpoint, I don’t feel like I have to stick with the old one. More often than not I think of better scenes to write as I get involved in the story. Sometimes I’ll have to go back and edit or remove them or rearrange them but they are written.
By doing this, I find that my creativity flourishes.
What if this won’t work for you?
Hey, that’s okay. Not everyone likes to be so “footloose and fancy-free” when it comes to writing. You feel lost and in the wind. I understand that.
Here’s my suggestion to those of you who are die hard plotters…
Just take one of your 15 minute increments PER WEEK and make it FREE writing. Even if you don’t end up using that scene in your completed novel. Or even if you just use this time to do a writing exercise (examples provided below). This free writing will benefit you in ways you never imagined. I promise.
If you’re already a pantzer, be sure to stay focused on getting in those focused writing increments each day. Don’t fall prey to the notion that just because you don’t spend as much time plotting that you have time to waste. You should still be writing.
So, what’s my crazed method?
- I name my book (even if the title changes later). I name my book first because I believe that it needs an identity in order to become real.
- I write about a one paragraph blurb about my book. This is the only plotting I typically do in advance. Of course, these details may change drastically as I write but I just develop the general concept first.
- I WRITE the first scene/chapter.
- Then I figure out each character’s GMC, maybe a turning point or two, and the big black moment, (so I don’t end up with an endless book).
- When the novel is complete then I’ll go back and edit. This is when I’ll do any research that is needed to fill in particular scenes. This is when I’ll do rewrites, if needed.
- Meanwhile, I’ve already moved on to writing my next book. I’m still editing this one and filling in the details and fleshing it out where needed but I have the book completed (at least in a rough first draft).
You guys, there’s a reason why we call it a FIRST Draft!
Now, some of you are saying…are you crazy? This will never work for me! I must research first. I must plot every detail. I must have perfect, quiet, tranquil writing conditions. I must have all of this if I’m going to actually write! What do I say? Just try it.
Experiment with a short story. Come up with an idea for a 10,000-word novella. Just commit to a 10 day, 1,000 words per day novella and see if you can write it without your normal routine. I bet you’ll be surprised at what really happens. All we need to motivate us is to know that we can complete a story. We can finish something and get it ready for submission. To know that we can do it is sometimes all it takes to help us complete all those other (longer) projects that we’ve been languishing through for months or years.
A sense of accomplishment on one project can go a long way toward completing all of our goals.
Below are a few writing prompts that will free up the clutter in your mind and allow you to be more productive.
The bottom line:
When it comes to writing a novel, everyone will have their own approach. Some will color code, poster board, research a topic enough to receive a college degree on it and then start their book. While others will come up with an idea today and type “The End” one month from now.
Find the right one for you and sticking to it. Actually completing a project will give you the motivation that you need to move on to new projects. If you’re struggling to complete a novel, take a break from it. Try writing something short on one of the subjects below.
You’ll be surprised at how this will free your mind.
Suggested freestyle writing exercises:
- If you were invited to someone’s home for dinner and the meal was the worst thing you’d ever tasted, what would you do?
- What is your Achilles’ heel?
- Tell how your heart was broken.
- Write about the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you.
- Write about the happiest day of your life.
- Write about a trip you’ve taken.
- Every night I…
- Tell us about the scariest day of your life.
- Write about a time when you lost control.
- Write about what you wish you would have said to someone.