My good friend and former classmate, Nancy Hatch, provides the next installment in the Space Series. (The first can be found here if you’re new to this blog.) Nancy writes awesome young adult fantasy books. She’s currently working on a YA Gothic romance. Take it away, Nancy!
A friend of mine is the fastest writer I know. She can draft a middle grade novel in a few weeks and return an editorial revision in ten days, all while coming up with a new proposal. She writes like a jet plane, a ridiculously fast, mostly straight shot from takeoff to landing. I can’t do it.
For me, writing is more like a hot air balloon ride. It takes work to get an idea off the ground—a lot of fanning (thinking) to start the inflation and a lot of hot air (the excitement of brainstorming) to fill the envelope. And then it requires space—a lot of space—and freedom. (Weren’t sure I’d fit that in, were you?) It is in that space between earth and sky, that space between my ears, the space between my dreams and the words on the screen that the story starts to develop. For me, this is the journey. And it is messy and unpredictable and hard to set a timetable to. I’ll land when I reach a place that looks like a good landing; when my flight has been long enough and exciting enough to complete my journey. And that may or may not be where I intended to go.
I have read many a craft book and writing life book that embraces outlining, shuffling 3 × 5 cards, elaborate character interviews and worksheets, and intricate world building—all to be done before putting fingers to keys. Know the story and your characters and then the book will write itself, they proclaim. It makes sense. It works for authors A, B, and C. It doesn’t work for me. It tethers me to the ground and never lets the story journey happen.
I read somewhere that you have to embrace your own process. I wish I’d known that a long time ago. Maybe I’d have had more balloons take flight. But, here’s the deal. Every writer has a process. No two of us do this the same way. I start with the idea of a scene and maybe a hint of a character, and then I write. It isn’t until I write that I start to get to know that character and figure out where my plot is going. I’m completely open for a subconscious surprise to appear beneath my fingertips. It’s exciting. It’s scary. But that’s what works for me.
Do I ever employ these other methods? Some of them, but not until my balloon is already in the air and sometimes not until I’ve already landed. Then I usually need to go back and analyze and make the adjustments in revision. Like I said, it’s messy. But that’s what works for me. It won’t be the same for you.
If you’re just starting out, my great tidbit of advice is to try some suggestions, read some books, talk to other writers, but when it comes to your writing and your stories, you do what works for you.
And never apologize for it.
I am not a jet plane. Yes, it has taken me forever to get where I am right now. I launch balloons and float them between the earth and the sky until I find a good place to land. In the process—my process—I enjoy the space and the view and the journey. You should too.
Balloon photos by Nancy Hatch. Jet from listofimages.com. Space image from wallsave.com. White space from dessign.net.