Embracing Change in Your Style

When I first started writing, I knew I was a discovery writer.  I listened to a Writing Excuses episode, and somebody, I don’t even remember who, made a comment about how writers should try both discovery writing and outlining/planning.  I don’t remember the exact reason he said, but I’m sure I could figure it out—they’re two different writing techniques, and sometimes, you can learn from both.  Or maybe that you’ll discover you’re not the one you think you are.  Or, really, it’s just a good thing to try new things, and trying the opposite of what you always do is definitely a new thing, right?  I scoffed, thinking that I wasn’t a planner, and I’d never ever be a planner, and I didn’t need to try being a planner.

Guess what?

I’m a planner.

Yeah, go ahead and laugh.  I’m already laughing.  But you wanna hear something even funnier?  When I was little, I wanted to be one of those artists who can draw something, and then people would go, “Wait, that isn’t a photograph?”  I wanted perfect realism.  I wanted to draw something that really would look like a photograph and people would have to take a second—and third and fourth—look before they realized it wasn’t.

Guess what I draw now?

I really have no idea, but it isn’t realism.

Here’s a lesson for you all, right from my own experience.

Don’t be afraid to explore.  Exploration makes you better at what you do.

Somewhere along the lines, I somehow started planning one of my novels.  I don’t really remember how or why I did it, but I did, and my writing turned out better.  It made me stop and think… Hmm.  Maybe I’m not a pantser after all.

I ended up writing more things that were pantsed and more things that were planned, before I finally realized that, yeah, I’m a planner.  I do discovery write somewhat, and I do enjoy it.  But I plan more often than not lately, because when I plan, I’m more likely to end with not only a slightly better written and less plot-hole-y first draft, but an actually finished first draft (which was a hard thing for me, for a while).

The truth is, if I hadn’t explored the idea of planning, and if I had just stuck with discovery writing, I probably would not be where I am right now.  I would have more half-finished projects where right now they are finished, and I’d probably be a lot more frustrated and discouraged simply because of that fact.  That sounds like fun, right?  Everybody wants to be discouraged.

Explore.

You can’t succeed at something if you don’t try it, right?  Well, try it, and then fail or succeed.  Learn what works.  Learn what doesn’t work.  Are you a planner or a pantser?  Or are you right smack dab in the middle? Do you use elements of both?  Do you outline extensively, or do you have a loose outline?  Do you write an outline, and then defenestrate the outline at the first change you have?

What seems to work best for me is to have a loose outline, just enough that it tells me the general events and plot, and I get to know my characters a little (but not even extensively), and then I discovery write all the rest.  I even discovery write the emotions, strange as that sounds.  I may know of an event that will greatly affect a character, but I don’t even know for sure how it’ll affect them, until I start writing it, and they take it in the direction that’s best for them, and I learn something new about them at the same time.

Even if, in the end, you discover that you’re writing style is exactly what you thought it was to begin with, you’ll still have learned new things and, more importantly, you should have had fun.  (Writing is all fun and games, right?  Riiiiight?)

Don’t resist the change when it finds you.

One of the hardest things I had to accept at first was that…I was wrong.  I had been so completely and totally wrong about myself.  Hard hit to the pride, for one.  I didn’t want to accept I had been wrong, and I didn’t want to give up what I’d been doing before, and I didn’t want to be a planner.  Planners are so boring.  They know their stories in advance and they don’t discover anything and that’s so boring.

(That’s a huge lie, by the way.  Even if you do outline the story to death, perhaps through the Snowflake Method, if it was that boring, nobody would do it.  [And considering the Snowflake Method exists in the first place, well… you see.])

I think in probably all aspects of life, accepting change is hard.  I had the same issues with realizing that I really didn’t want to draw realism (or at least exclusively realism), too.  But change is important.  Change is what allows growth and improvement.

I mean, think about it.  Improvement is change.  If you improve…you’re changing, aren’t you?  You’re changing from bad or mediocre or even good to better.  So if you don’t change, you don’t improve.  Simple as that.

Change wants to be your friend.

Sometimes.

Now go do what works best for you.

Well, that says it all, mostly.  Go do it.  And remember, finding change, seeing change, embracing change—it’s the key to improvement.

So go improve.

And because GIFs make everything better, here’s Ten basically summing up the essence of discovery writing.

A Mishmash Post of Plot Holes, World-building, and a New Project

So, in my last post, I mentioned that I was rereading my NaNo novel, and taking notes/asking questions, as if I was my own “alpha reader”.  I’m finished with that now, and I can say, it worked as well as I had hoped it would.  Since I took a break from the novel for a month before I did this, I was fairly well distanced from the novel, and I could look at it from the perspective of a reader, of sorts.

That was encouraging.  I was looking for problems to fix, and I certainly found plenty of them.  However, I found more problems with the story, rather than problems with the writing, and that is hugely encouraging, at least for me.  See, I wrote this novel in a single month.  Thirty days.  I did some world building and some character development, but no actual planning, and I had no clue what the plot was until, well, I got there.

So, I expected lots of problems.  Plot holes, and inconsistencies, and flat characters, and things that just don’t make sense, and all things of that sort.  Did I find them?  You bet.  But what I didn’t find were issues with my writing style itself.

I mean, there are issues.  I have more mistyped-words and typos than real words, and there’s plenty of things like info-dumps and blank descriptions and whatnot.  However, the thing is, my writing could be improved, and it wasn’t really good, but it didn’t strike me as being oh-my-goodness-that’s-horrible-how-could-I-ever-have-written-that kind of bad.

Does that even make any sense?  I guess my point is, while the novel had it’s fair share of issues—and then some—I know that all of those issues are ones I can fix, and I know I can get this novel into a readable state.  It’s not like my ’12 NaNo novel, that I don’t think I’ll ever touch again.

So, I’m encouraged.

On a different note, one thing I found through this reading process was that I didn’t have nearly enough world-building.  I hardly knew that world at all when I wrote about it.  So, before I really start editing, I have to fill in that world-building.  (That’s why the little editing bar on the right of the page has been staying consistently low, even while the other two bars go up.)

World-building is, in a word…odd.  I’ve never done much of it in-depth before, not to this extent, and it’s kind of overwhelming.  I realized, though, that the more I got to know about the world, the more I began to really, really love the world, and then the more fun the world-building became.  I now understand why people get world builder’s disease.  Hopefully I won’t end up that far down, though.

Anyway!  On unrelated things… The writing’s been good, as you can probably tell by the lower two word-count bars on the right.  I’ve been able to consistently write every single day, though there was one day where I’m not completely sure I met my 200 word goal.  It might have only been 100 or so, but I think there were other things going on that day and I couldn’t do more than that.  So, I counted it anyway.

Also, for that one novel, the progress is coming along nicely.  I hope I’m about half way through the novel, though since I’m mostly pantsing this one, it’s hard to tell.

Unsurprisingly, with my multi-projects-at-once self, those two novels aren’t my only projects. I recently started another novel, and I’m only about 3k into that one.  I know I probably shouldn’t let myself multitask so much, but I’ve kind of learned that it’s really hard to not do it, so I’m letting myself for now.  I don’t think this new novel will take me very far before I get stuck and will need to sit back and figure out where I’m going, in which case I can step back and go back to solely working on my other projects.  That’s why I’m not bothering to put a bar up for it in the side, even if I am working on it as well.

So…I think that’s it.  This is kind of a mishmash post, isn’t it?  Heh heh, oh well.

Preparation for Camp NaNo—July!

After my attempt at writing a novel for Camp NaNo in April failed miserably, I decided to try again for July—through a different route. I pantsed my way through April, so I decided to outline for July. I started mostly from scratch for April, so I decided to work on a WIP where I already had an idea where the story was going.

Then…

Then I realized I wasn’t excited. I mean, I’m excited for Camp, but I wasn’t excited for my novel. I like the characters and the plot and everything, but more in an off-hand way. I realized I don’t want to write that book right now. Later, yes. Now, no.

A bit later, I found the coolest idea ever*, from a fellow NaNoer, on how to come up with an amusing plot, almost on the spot. I followed his/her steps out of boredom and came up with a fairly interesting idea.

Even as I tried to force myself to prepare for Camp, this new idea started to develop itself in my mind. Already it had a fun main character and an interesting plot. Very underdeveloped still, but full of potential.

Long story short, I gave in. I’ve switched NaNo projects less than a week before July. But I am sooo glad I did. I’m using a different style of outlining, which isn’t as tedious as my original method, and the characters are already coming alive in my head. THe plot will still take a lot of work, but hey! I have a week before July starts, and who says the outline has to be entirely finished before Camp starts?

I am really excited and happy about it now. I can’t wait for camp to start! Really, I almost want to start writing right now. In fact, the biggest thing that’s keeping me back from starting now is that I’m not yet sure if I’ll write the story in first person or third person. I’ve done both and both are equally fun to write. I think it depends on what kind of emotion I want the story as a whole to convey, which I haven’t entirely figured out yet.

Anyway, I already have a title and a rough-draft pitch, which is…. Magic’s Artist: Cy, a ten year old art prodigy, has a secret—his art is not his own. Really, he can’t even draw a stick figure, let alone an award-winning painting of a girl, without the help of his magic.

How’s that sound?

Awesome, right? Actually, I have no clue if it sounds awesome or not. It does to me, and that’s all that really matters right now, yes?

I know I’m not the greatest at writing pitches, and that doesn’t even really get into the conflict of the story, but for now, it serves my purposes. After I’ve really discovered the conflict myself, I’ll probably write a new one.

Now. Back to writing that outline.


* original link here