Welcome back, Erica! (You all can read Part 1 here)
As I stated yesterday, each writer has a sweet spot somewhere between the rules and the art where they are most comfortable. Where to find your particular sweet spot is usually quickly answered by asking yourself ‘Are you a plotter or a pantser?â’
How structured is your preparation to write? Do you need a 50 page outline, character worksheets, scene cards, a Snowflake Document, (Google “Randy Ingermanson” if you don’t know what this is) and a plot flow chart before you could begin to write the first word? That’s a Plotter.
Do you like to sit down and discover every day who your characters are and what will happen to them? Do you love that rush that comes when something unexpected pops up in a story that you didn’t know was coming? Does the thought of having an outline give you the screaming mimi’s? That’s a Seat-of-the-Pants writer.
I’ve never yet met an author who was 100% one or the other. They all fall somewhere in between. The trick is to find where you are on the scale. I used to be a dedicated SOTP writer. I knew the end, the beginning, and the main character’s name, and that’s about it. This led to happy hours slapping words on the page, and agonizing rewrites as I realized the story was all over the place, lacking structure.
Then I became a ‘headlight’ writer, where I could see the story about one scene ahead at a time–only as far as my fiction headlights could shine in the dark. This was better, but I still found myself writing tangents that had to be lopped off and redirected on edit. Now, I am more of a plotter. I use a storyboard and post-its to lay out a story, then transpose my post-it notes into a document divided into chapters and listing my scene goals.
The process of finding my sweet spot–getting the Muse to behave–finding the most productive way to employ the rules and release my creativity–that all came through trial and error. I tested a lot of methods before striking on the one that allowed me the most efficient use of my time while also granting me the freedom to explore my imagination.
Try both extremes to see where your own sweet spot lies. There’s no wrong answer–it’s your Muse, after all.
Erica Vetsch is a wife, home-school mom, company bookkeeper and novelist. She is an ACFW Genesis Contest winner and avid historian. Her debut novel, The Bartered Bride, releases from Barbour Heartsong Presents in November, 2009. Books two and three in The Kennebrae Brides series: The Marriage Masquerade and The Engineered Engagement are scheduled for release in 2010. Look also for the three books in her Brides of Money Creek series from Heartsong, Clara and the Cowboy, Lily and the Lawman, and Maggie and the Maverick also releasing in 2010.