Once upon a time I lived in the Midwest––Indiana––working first as a line attendant in a pharmaceutical factory and then as a proofreader in an office over looking the Ohio River (compliments of getting a BA in journalism).
At that time, I had a plan for my life that involved writing my way to the top of the corporate ladder. All that changed in a wink though when the company announced it was downsizing and relocating its headquarters to the East Coast.
With that news my “plan” flew out one window while an alternative lifestyle wheeled through another. One that involved more “winging it” than I ever imagined. My point is there are two kinds of people: those with a plan and those without. Sometimes, we are both either by design or default. The same can be said for writers.
When I first started working as a journalist I went to every assignment with a stiff list of set questions, taking notes long-hand with a small recorder running as well, so that I could later transcribe it word for word. It was time consuming and unimaginative, as I was barely aware of a better story since I focused so intently on the one I thought I wanted to tell. As Judge Judy would say, I didn’t have my listening ears on.
Later I’d learned to wing it more, going into the conversation with an idea of what I was seeking but keeping an open mind to what else I might learn. I became a freestyle writer, approaching projects without a clear plan.
While free-styling had served me well when writing feature stories and news briefs (plus allowed me a more adventurous lifestyle), it did not translate smoothly to writing a book. Sitting down to draft 400 pages based on bullet points may have provided the big picture of the journey, but the only structure it produced was chronological.
As a the writing of my story progressed I wanted to loosen up the rigid linear timeline I’d created but found it difficult to re-craft the story in a more creative form. I’d kinda locked myself in mentally to a frame. That led to some frustration and time loss. Had I taken the time to consider various ways of structuring my story I might have achieved results faster. On the other hand, I might not have learned as much as I did about the process of writing a book.
- It takes time.
- You will make mistakes.
- Failure is a great teacher.
- The work must live in your soul first before it can find its way to the page.
I’ve since learned to give more consideration to planning the work, and in a later post I’ll share with you exactly what I worked out. No matter what your style I think it is important to find some sort of balance in your approach to writing. A basic blueprint of your work will help save you time and frustration in the long run. But you’ll still need to keep your listening ears on so you can hear what the work is telling you.
How is your writing style working out for you?