Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Writer's Formula

Strategy: A Writer's Formula

by Lisa Hughey

Every writer has a process. A strategy for how to write their book. What's truly fascinating (to me anyway) is that every writer's process is different. I'd bet every single Pen uses a separate and unique method for getting the words down.

For those non-writers in the house, here are the standard writer strategies for drafting a book. For the draft process you've got outliners, seat of the pantsers, and the, ever unable to commit to one way, hybrids.

1. Outliners
This writer will design complicated outlines complete with sub-headings, along with color-coded charts, character interviews, world-building questionnaires. Sometimes their outlines and notes will fill an entire three ring binder before they ever write a word of the book.

2. Pantsers
This writer has a concept or character or theme in mind and just...sits in the chair and starts writing.

3. Hybrids
This writer will have a general outline. Sometimes they will use the story arc of script writing by charting out Acts and Turning Points and the absolutely essential Black Moment. But after they get those key points down, they just sit and write.

So now you're thinking, okay fine, but after the draft is written, all writers use the same revision strategy.

Again, everyone's strategy is unique. Those amazingly right brain writers will graph out where the book goes astray and what needs to be changed in order to get the plot nailed down and coherent. They also tend to revise at the sentence level at the same time, crafting sentences to make their readers weep, or laugh, or sigh.

Other writers will do three or four or ten passes. During each pass through the manuscript, they focus on a separate piece of the whole. They add, delete, and refine the plot, character motiviation, emotion, blocking, and sentence level details until the work is just right.

When they get ready to revise, some writers use spreadsheets, some use post it notes, some hold all those details in their brains.

And yet, at the end of the process, all writers have a finished work. So if you're a writer, embrace your own strategy. And don't worry if that strategy changes from book to book. After all, as people we are a work in process, just like our novels.


Rachael Herron said...

I could seriously read about strategy and method all day long. I guess that says a lot about my process... :)

Sophie Littlefield said...

don't forget panic/desperation....i suppose it's a variation of pantser but it feels a little different (as I pour my second gallon of coffee...)

Gigi Pandian said...

I tell myself I'm an outliner, but in reality it never really works out that way.... ;)

Lisa Hughey said...

R-my process is constantly changing and i love to try new things all the time :)

S-desperation usually means the end is near, don'tcha think?

G2-i want to be an outliner! They look so neat and tidy but unfortunately outlining gives me a horrible headache. Not kidding!