Earlier today I saw a post on Facebook titled, ‘Three things writers should stop doing.’ As a writer in the midst of a new project after a two-year hiatus, it is fair to say I have the writing bug again. So feeling curious I eagerly clicked the link. I disagreed with the post so much that I clicked off the page fairly quickly.
But several hours later I was back again, trying to work out what bothered me so much about the list. I realized that all three points were behavioral, concerned more with being a writer than with actual craft of writing.
This prompted me to think about whether I have implemented any useful changes to my writing process since embarking on my new project. What am I doing today that I didn’t do with my previous books?
This is what I came up with:
Know who your key characters were before they entered your story.
As healthy-minded adults it is a rare occasion that we make decisions in isolation. Our thoughts and actions tend to be influenced by a lifetime of experiences and relationships, that themselves form the foundation of our values. It’s the same for our characters. Understanding where our characters come from, identifying the influential experiences and relationships that shaped them, helps us as writers make the right decisions on their behalves. It helps us to keep their personality traits consistent, and their inconsistencies, when they do happen, credible. Even if it doesn’t make it onto the page, there’s a lot of value in understanding the life that created your character. Also, I quite enjoy nosing around.
Unplug, and spend some quality time with your notes.
I have heard many writers say that they don’t like chapter plans or comprehensive notes because they want to be free when they write. For me it is a solid, although by no means set in stone, chapter plan that gives me the freedom to write. The better my understanding of where I am going and what I am trying to achieve at each point, the more confident my writing is. Still, I consider my notes and chapter plan a living document, subject to potential changes and developments as I go along. But having set the direction I am more free to write than ever because I am not tryng to make big decisions as I go. More and more I make a conscious effort to sit and review my notes in their entirity. Not necessarily with any purpose or task in mind outside of sanity checking and familiarising.
Watch Finding Forrester. Again.
Yes, it may be about absolute greatness, and yes I may be a romantic fool, but I love this film. I don’t watch it that often, maybe every other year. But when I do watch it, it inspires me not only to write (punch the keys, for God’s sake!), but to write better (You ain’t seen nothing? What the hell kind of sentence is that?).
If you have any other ideas for things writers should start doing, feel free to add a comment below.