Monday, January 4, 2010

What’s Your Writing Style?

1. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

A little from column A, a little from column B.

Longer stories require more pre-plotting. Sometimes that's journaling, in character. Sometimes it's writing flash fictions for different characters. Sometimes it's outlining or note-taking or character profiling.

Shorter stories...those are usually "pants to the chair" types. It's the only way I can get them done. Otherwise, I wind up getting an information overload--more stuff than is feasible to go into a short story and then I have trouble deciding what to cut and where.

2. Detailed character sketches or “their character will be revealed to me as a I write”?


I have one novel idea for which I'm writing flash fictions for the main characters. It lets me get into their heads a little bit.

Some characters take well to doing a profile sheet (name, age, desires, etc.).

Some require actually delving into the novel/story content before they'll talk to me. Just depends on their personality.

3. Do you know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing?

I have a general idea of some of them. They're usually minor and play only a side part to the overarching goal/story/plot. The rest usually come as I write.

4. Books on plotting – useful or harmful?


Anything on writing, I think one must keep at arm's length. Read, consider, learn...get rid of what doesn't work for you. Not every person's process works the same. One exercise or piece of advice isn't going to work for you the same way it works for another writer.

5. Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work?

A little from column "A," a little from column "B."

An average writing-night for me might go something like this:

Cup of tea. Write a paragraph. Cup of coffee. Delete half a paragraph. Write two paragraphs. Clean the kitchen. Write a paragraph. Watch an episode of Buffy. Write a few lines. Delete a few lines. Write a sentence. Clean off the computer desk. Cup of tea. Write three or four paragraphs. Dance around to some music. Write a 500-1000 word flash fiction. Food break. Write a character sketch.

On a non-average night, when everything's clean (definitely not average) and there are no interruptions (from the partner or the cats), I can probably put my pants to the seat and get a good rough draft or outline of what I'm working on.

6. Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time?


The day job can be hell on my creative spark. Sometimes I just don't want to mess with words after I've spent all day doing just that... Sometimes I just want to veg out. Or I want do something physical (take a long walk).

During those times the creative bursts of energy are the one thing that can usually get my pen moving.

I'm getting better at making myself write, even if I don't want to and can come up with a million excuses why I should be doing something else.

But, I still fail a lot.

7. Are you a morning or afternoon writer?

I'm a night person by nature, a morning person by necessity. I can write at any time, in any place, and, usually, with any kind of distraction. Sometimes the best stuff comes in the mornings, when I'm still half asleep, waiting for the caffeine to kick in. Sometimes it comes late at night, when I'm, again, half asleep and starting to think the pillow would be a better head rest than my keyboard.

8. Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate?


In general, I can write with distractions. Drafting, editing, character sketches, whatever. You have to be able to do that, because there's always going to be someone who's interrupting you, invading your space, talking to you about something they think is interesting. Even if you have your "writing hat" on. (The one that has a sign on it that says: "Unless something's on fire, don't disturb me.")

But I have moments--if I'm trying to figure out a transition, or get through a particularly hard scene--where I need quiet. I need everyone to leave me the hell alone and let me get through what I need to get through (even if they occasionally hear sobs or muttered cursing coming from my general vicinity).

9. Computer or longhand? (or typewriter?)

All of the above. Some works come out easier long-hand and halfway through I move to the computer. Some works come out easier on the PC. Sometimes I use the electric typewriter for the industrial click-click-clack of the keys that make it sound like I'm working really hard.

10. Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One?

Sometimes--for novels or novellas--I have a general sense of how they'll end. I may not know the exact scene.

For short stories, I generally have a good idea of the ending scene. It's the middle I have problems getting to...

11. Does what’s selling in the market influence how and what you write?

In the business sense: hell no. I will admit that I'm influenced by fiction I read... Just as I am by music I listen to, movies I watch, art I see, etc.

If I wrote for the Market, I'd never get anything done.

It's better to write for yourself and have no audience, than to write for an audience and have no self.

I try to remember this.

I don't want my writing to turn into this mind-numbing, soulless occupation. It's something I enjoy. I want to enjoy it. I can't do that by trying to anticipate what other people want to read or what the markets want to sell... And, anyway, by the time I finish something the market will have changed yet again.

12. Editing – love it or hate it?

I love refining words. It's like sculpting. You already have your material (words on paper) so it's a matter of pushing and pulling and stroking and smoothing things to suit your needs and the needs of your characters.

When editing bugs me, it's for the same reasons as writing bugs me. I'm blocked. I can't figure out a transition. I don't like/can't work with the POV I've written in. Certain pieces in the story don't fit well together or events seem out of order or over developed.

I have some stories where, in the editing process, I've found I need to scrap (or come close to scrapping) the entire story, which is endlessly frustrating because I've already spent so much time drafting and sculpting.

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