When I was very young, I used to write. A lot. Every day, I would just sit and write, and the words would flow onto the page. Story upon story would come out. When my age was in the single digits, they would be stories about animals. When I was a teenager, they were stories about…well, ok, much of it was fan fiction. I’m thoroughly ashamed. It was good practice, nonetheless. In college, especially in the later years, I studied until about midnight, and then wrote stories until 3 AM. These stories focused on time periods other than our own. What if I lived during World War I? What if I traveled across the US as a pioneer? I filled those hardcover journals you can buy at the book store, one after another, every week or two. I just wrote in whatever way came naturally to me, in what ever order the story came.
When my son came along, I started writing, but this time, something was a little different. An idea popped into my head: Why couldn’t I write books? Why couldn’t I write and be published? So I started taking things much more seriously. I read books about craft, took workshops on grammar and punctuation, studied the writing of other authors. I read things about how I must write in order to succeed, things you MUST do, or else you would never be successful or prolific. And I started to put all those things into practice.
One rule was never to edit while you were writing. Crap, I thought. I do that. I edit the chapters when I’m done…better stop that. There were many more, like writing linearly, never rereading what you write until you are done, outlining, etc. I tried to put all of these rules into play with my writing.
A couple years went by…and I was endlessly frustrated. Nothing seemed to work. I tried doing all these fail-proof things, and I was failing! It didn’t take me long (well, actually it did) for me to realize, hello, what you were doing WORKED. So just DO IT. It was very hard though, because there were not a lot of examples of people working the same way I did, and I sort of felt guilty at times, like I was doing something wrong.
Well. Yesterday I went to my “local” RWA meeting in CT, and after there was a workshop by one of my favorite authors, as well as one of the people who inspired me to write in the first place, Julia Quinn. During the “Ask Julia Anything” session, she described her writing process. And I couldn’t believe my ears. She wrote just. like. me.
Validation. It’s a beautiful thing.
(Yes, Mom, I’m slouching)
So. I have my own advice for those of you who are having a hard time, who feel stuck, who don’t know how to proceed. Who can’t figure out if they are pantsers or plotters, who can’t figure out how they should work. Think about how you used to write. You know, before you thought about publishing. When you were absolutely in love with writing and couldn’t get enough of it. THAT is how you should write. THAT is your process. Your very own process that works for YOU, and not necessarily anyone else (though I guarantee that someone out there works just fine in your way. They just aren’t talking about it–they are too busy writing!). That’s what you should be doing, and the heck with the rest of it. Because in the end, all those well meaning advice givers are not the ones who will be writing your story. YOU are writing your story. So make it truly yours.
RWO 80 update: I’m working on it. As I said, I started the 10 week workshop, so I had to get things rolling with that, and I had the workshop on Saturday, so I lost that day. But I should be able to get back into the swing of things this week, and hopefully will catch up.