06 September 2010

Before You Write

As many ways to write as there are people who write - I'm sure you've heard that before. Which is why, everywhere you turn for advice, you find conflicting information about the writing process. When you're starting out as a beginner, these contradictions can be overwhelming.

I'm the kind of person who likes to be well informed, so when I decided that I was serious about this whole writing thing, I read. Like, a lot. Like, a-lot-a-lot. I devoured entire websites of information, archives of blogs, shelves at the library - if there was information on how to be a writer, I read it.

Only, in the end, none of it really helped me begin, you know? Because your writing process is as unique as your thought processes. Sure, people can give you tips and tricks to try (Holly Lisle's Create-a-Plot Clinic was invaluable for that for me), but in the end, only you know what you need to have straight before you write.

I'm working on my fifth novel now, and - though you'd think I'd have figured it out before - it's hit me what it is that I need to have in place before I write. What is it, I hear you ask? Because yes, my ears are good like that, and I can hear you ask questions you didn't even know you were asking, bwa ha ha! >:)

Anyway, what I've discovered I need is a character arc. Plot-schmot, structure-schmucture, scenes-schmenes. What I need to know is where my character is going. Ideally, characters change throughout a novel, right? Well, that's what I need to know. What's the big change my character goes through? What do they learn - about life, or themselves, or whatever?

Because something else I've figured out. You know how people talk about writing books for particular people, or to explore a particular situation, or to Say Something, or whatever else? Yeah. Well, the other thing I've figured out it this: I tell my stories for my characters. I see who they are at the beginning of the story, and I want to show them how they can become the better people I know they can be.

Weird, I know. It's like, Hey everyone! I write about things that never happened and never could because I want to let the voices in my head know they can be Good People Too!

But hey. I never claimed to be sane ;)

How about you guys? What's the one thing you need to have in place before writing? And do you tell your stories for a particular reason, or just because it's fun and you can? :D


Anonymous said...

Great article! I write my stories because they refuse to leave me alone. The characters invade my dreams and wake me up at 3am having to write something down, anything to keep them quiet. I like that you put that you write for your characters to show them how they can grow. Thanks for the great post.
- Kim

Christine Fonseca said...

Everything starts with characters for me. Once I have my mc's voice in my head, I can go forward from there.

Krispy said...

Love the advice here. It's so true!

I have characters way before I have plot, and I write to find out more about them. :)

Amy Laurens said...

Kim - I love it when you dream about a story! It's such an awesome feeling, especially to know that your subconscious is plodding away at the story with you :D

Christine - Voice is pretty important to me, too. I can tell which stories I've written where I had the voice and where I didn't. Surprising what a difference it makes.

Krispy - Glad you agree! :D It's interesting that everyone who's responded needs the characters first. I wonder if that's significant? And I like the idea of writing to find out more about them :o)

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