No Wrong Way

I recently had a friend ask me how I structure my novel and how I keep the details of my characters in order.

Sharpen Pencil

So here’s a bit of my writing process:

When I first started to write novels it was a hard thing to figure out just how to structure my story, should I write with a fill in the blank structure or fly by the seat of my pants. Well, I’ve done it both ways. First, I didn’t want to be constrained by outlines (AKA a pantser) so I just wrote; no plan on what was going to pop up all I wanted was the words onto the page. I didn’t want to impede my ‘natural creative brain.’

After over 100 pages I realized that I need to have structure so went to the opposite extreme, where I scripted the entire thing. I build a meticulous outline detailing all the major scenes and the conflicts within it. Yet that was too much restraint on my creative

process. So now I have a calendar of how long my book is going to take in character time (days/weeks/months) and I write down major scenes that I have mapped out with no idea how to move the character from one event to the other so I allow that to flow out of my actually writing style.

Well what about characters, how much must I know about their background before I start? When I first get an idea for a novel, I normally see the beginning scene in my head and see a few of the character’s personality traits but for me they grow and evolve as I ‘meet’ the character. As I write I normally know my destination but never exactly how I shall get there. I have a software called Snowflake written my a writer who is also a scientist that I fill in about the characters & their background as I go along so I can keep all the details like their physical descriptions straight but that’s normally after I’ve made it a good hunk of the way through my first draft. While writing the draft now I’ll leave myself a comment about quirks, nicknames they call each other, or hair color so later I don’t have to hunt as hard.

So I guess I kind of write with a rough cage of what I want but allowing me the most amount of freedom to let the story develop in fun and surprising ways. The only thing I know for sure is that for me how I write is in flux and I have to find fight a delicate balance between too much structure, where I stifle myself, & too lax, where my story falls apart because I don’t know exactly where I’m headed.

So I guess the only conclusion about how to write and structure it, is that nothing is wrong as long as you keep getting words on the page because at the end of the day that’s what really matters.

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