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Pro Am Tip #38


Are you dapper? A slob? A hipster? A jock? A goth? Emo? Shab-chic? What’s your style?

How about writing? Are you a plotter? A pantser? Do you write your favorite scenes first? Last? Do you love description or dialogue?

There’s no right or wrong answer. The only way to write wrong is to not write.

Here’s some insight you never asked for and couldn’t care less about: I started and abandoned a dozen novels before I finished my first one, Magician. Were they bad novels? (Well, yes, because they were never finished.) Amteurish, sure. Clumsy, yeah. But bad? No. So why did I abandon them? It took me years to figure it out myself.

Stephen King recommends working on one project at a time and getting through it within three months, or else you risk the story becoming stale. The characters die in your mind. The connections fade. You lose the thread.

I feel similar, but I’m able to keep projects alive for years because (I suspect it’s because I’m a little crazy) I don’t have that fade.

So why did those books collapse in on themselves?

I finally figured it out about seven years ago.

I skipped around.

I wrote the clearest scenes first, the ones I was excited to write. I wrote the ones I could see clearest in my mind. The ones that were the most fun. In a few cases, I wrote the ending.

And they all died.

Turns out I have this odd quirk that I’ve never found anywhere else in other author’s list of oddities: I have to write linearly.

I have to start at the beginning, write until I get to The End, and never skip around.

That isn’t to say I don’t write flashbacks, or skip around in time. Not at all. But I have to do it in order, if that makes sense. I have to start at the first word, and write them in order until I get to the last one. Otherwise the whole thing just… dries up. It fades. All those books I started in which I wrote various scenes out of order just stopped living.

And the ones I wrote the endings for? Turns out if I write an ending FIRST, I can’t be bothered to write anything else. It’s as if my brain takes control. (Don’t be fooled by anything I say: I’m not in control of anything, and neither is my brain, but we sometimes manage a few moments of clarity.) Me- “Okay, let’s get to work on the other stuff.”

Brain- “Oh. We wrote the ending. We must be done. Move on. Let’s do a new book now. How about-”

Me- “No, we’re not done. We only wrote the ending scene. There’s so much more to-”

Brain- “NO. It’s done. It HAS to be: we wrote the last scene. That means it’s done. So, how about a book about a pirate with a steam engine?”

Me- “…but… but… actually that sounds pretty cool. Where do we start?”

My style is very simple. I begin at the beginning, I end at the end. Once I realized HOW I’m supposed to write, it became so much more easy. I can write three or four 100k+ books a year, and I NEVER struggle with writer’s block, or what-happens-next syndrome. (I often sail WAY past my usual mark of 100k a book, just because I’m in love with every fucking word I’ve ever written, but that’s what editing is for.)

I write in my style. I have to. You need to find yours. Those of you out there who struggle, do you know HOW you’re supposed to write?

Do you know what your style is?

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