Sticking with What Works


“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” -Agatha Christie

How do you work through your story and scenes?

When it comes to writing, I’ve tried so many different methods of getting the story down.  I’ve tried to be a plotter.  I’ve tried to be a seat-of-my-pants-er.  I’ve outlined. I’ve started with the synopsis. I’ve started at the end. I’ve used white boards. I’ve just sat and purged my brain.

But though all these attempts at finding what works for me, I have realized I don’t fit in any one place.  When left to my natural tendencies, I am most comfortable within a mix of all of these things.

I tend to fiddle and work through my story in my head while doing other things like, say… the dishes or laundry. (In a family of six, I spend more time on these tasks than I care to admit.)  The results are often decent, in that I can then sit down and purge all of the stuff from my head onto the page almost fully formed, albeit flawed and desperately needing revising in the future.  But it is there, and I feel a sense of accomplishment while making some measure of desirable progress.

I could spend every day of my writerly life like this.  Wake up, do the mom thing, get the kids off to school, then spend the rest of the day actively thinking about whatever facet of my story I am working on.  Then the afternoon rolls around and the mom things are back in gear.  Then the cherubs are tucked into bed and the writing can begin – call it 9pm or so.

Enter the distractions.

What’s going on at twitter?  Any comments on my blog?  What about email?  I mean, I am sitting right here why not check in with the blog feed?  The little voice starts yelling “stop!  not the blog feed! don’t do it!”  But as a writer I must check in with the rest of the people out there.  I cannot exist in my little vacuum alone.

I feel a little jolt of excitement as the reader refreshes.  I wonder if today’s offerings will ignite the passion within. I will leap from this little excursion back into my work with an intensity that will not only get me to that next goal, but beyond it, and with style. 

Oh, what’s this?  I hit upon a post from a writer whose blog I follow and they’re talking about craft, or plotting, or scene design… and everything changes.

Self doubt and inferiority has crept into my mind.

O.M.G.  I’m doing it all wrong.

It takes effort for me to get back to that place where I realize what is working for me.  The key part being: for me.

I love reading the blogs of other writers.  There are so many pieces of insight and often many new ideas on the craft become illuminated for me.  But I have to be actively aware that what works for me is not always what works for someone else, just as what works for me today will not work for me tomorrow or the next day.

So, the next time you’re feeling the worry and doubt creeping in, try to remind yourself that you’re comparing apples to oranges to cars.  What is good for someone else will not always be good for you.

That said, what is your method?

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