Okay, writer-comrades. Let's chew on this one together, shall we?
Recently, someone tried to tell me how I "should" be writing my WIP. Not the actual plot, but the method. Plotter-vs.-pantser sort of thing.
You all know I'm a pantser. Or perhaps a pantser-in-recovery, as I make decided attempts at better organization along the way. Still, in the end, I do my best writing organically, and that's just the way it is. The way I am.
Now, I'm all about the journey toward improvement. Being open to critique is essential, reading good books is essential, sorting through advice and suggestions is essential. Notice I said "sorting through." Because it's not all going to be prime pickin'.
When it comes right down to it, though, the actual WAY that I write--my essential creative process--isn't going to drastically change. It may take me longer, or it may take me shorter. But it's like the set of lungs I've been given for breathing. I might breathe deeply or shallowly. I might cough or hiccup or hold my breath while I'm swimming. I might learn to use my diaphragm correctly to improve my singing, or I might smoke six packs a day and turn my lungs an attractive shade of black. But my lungs are my lungs. They will not essentially change.
Yeah, I know. That was one weird analogy.
So. This well-meaning person thinks my stories would work better if I constructed complete outlines first. And while I do see value in outlining, I have learned over and over again that it doesn't work for me. Really, truly, absolutely doesn't work.
It's like a physical pain, staring at that blank screen while trying to come up with the outline of a story that doesn't exist yet.
Joy-sucking. And if my joy is sucked dry, I won't want to write at all.
Jotting the story arc for a "book 2" is different. I've already got my world and my characters, and the screen doesn't feel quite so blank. But I'm still not going to write the story from a strict, worked-out-the-details-ahead-of-time outline. Even if I HAD that kind of outline, I imagine I'd veer pretty far from it as the story unfolded. It's how I work.
The main thing is to have a strong story AT THE END OF THE PROCESS. Strong plot. Strong story arc. Strong character arc. Strong worldbuilding. All the components in place regardless of how the author got there.
We're all different. And while I CRAVE honest critique and LOVE to hear about new plotting and worldbuilding techniques, I can't change the essence of my creative process. I've become more organized and less willing to jump into a new story without any direction at all. And I'm thankful for having learned the value of that.
But please. Don't tell me HOW to write! Tell me my latest story sucks; tell me you couldn't relate to my protag; tell me to start my story earlier or to up the tension or to create a longer, more satisfying denouement. Tell me to DO it, by all means. But don't tell me HOW.
I've watched Beth Revis flying by the seat of her pants on her latest WIP, and her debut novel is going to be amazing (yes, I do believe it is!). I've seen a picture of Holly Bodger's uber-organized plotting cork board and I stand in awe. (No, really. She knows this.) Holly has a novel out on submission right now and I'm sure it will sell (yes, I am!).
Two writers I admire. Two ways of writing. Should I tell one of them she's right and the other she's wrong? I don't think so.
So while I do appreciate the good intentions of my "you should write THIS way" advisor, I can't ultimately go there. I've changed many things about my writing over the last couple of years and I will (hopefully) continue to change, improve, grow. But to change my PROCESS? That's like changing my eye color. Yes, I'd like to be a better plotter, a better worldbuilder. And I can learn to do both! But my process is my process. It's separate from the actual writing.
Okay, your turn. Assess the way you work--the root-level, basic process that propels you. Do you feel like you could change that? If so, how?
And hey. If I'm whistling to myself way outside the ballpark, just tell me. (Especially you, Jodi Meadows.)