WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
How we create is a subject often discussed, but most done so from a theoretical standpoint. We we note our observations on the method or creative process from a practical standpoint, we capture a very different picture.
The methods of creating are as diverse as are creators. For the writer, it pays to explore them. Often in doing so, the writer discovers new ways of creating that enhance the stimulation of his or her process.
Staying informal and cutting to the chase, a few prominent methods are:
1. Sit down and write. Do no planning, no research, no sleuthing or preparation. Just write, see where the story goes, and see what happens.
2. Plan and prepare. Decide what you want to write, do the research, plan the characters, plot and setting, lay out the novel, do whatever sleuthing you need to do to be credible, and prepare by laying the novel out in chapters or scenes and only when all the plot holes are filled, the characterizations are nailed down and logical, motivations are clear, obstacles and goals are in place and solid, then begin writing.
Basically, everything else is a variation of those two methods. Where the writer creates some hybrid that works well for the writer. And most often, the writer develops his or her own method that falls somewhere in the middle of the two methods.
On specific books.
On other books, the writer develops a different method or hybrid.
While writers tend to approach the process on multiple projects in a similar way, there are specific projects that inspire the writer to work in a different way. Many are resistant to it, but eventually give in because their creativity drives the process.
Creativity drives the process.
That’s significant because stories come to writers in different ways. Each story comes to the writer in a different way. We are inspired by many things, and those inspirations–and the interest significant enough to warrant investment of our lives in the time necessary to write a book–are triggered by a variety of things.
We might see an individual who intrigues us, sparks an interest in us to explore them, who fires our imagination with a what if this or that happened? How would that person react?
We might see an event, or experience one, that engages our emotions and we must–not can or should or consider, but must–write about it.
We might see a commercial, a child at a parade, a scrap of news or visit a place, hear of a place, that triggers something entirely different but wraps itself at the core around a story we must tell.
The bottom line is we engage in different ways. We assimilate, process and develop in different ways. And–here’s the great news–they’re all right!
There is no wrong or set method. There is no standard for what fires our imagination, strikes us creatively. And there is no singular method that is correct or incorrect. At the end of the process, regardless of the method used to get there or the basis for that fired imagination or the creativity spurred to get us there, we all wind up at the same place: with a book.
I’ve explored all manner of methods. And along about book five or six, I settled on one that works well for me. It requires doing a lot of pre-planning and laying out the chapters and scenes. Characters are developed, their conflicts, goals and motivations are clear, the setting, the plot and significant turning points are identified–all before the first word is written.
That process has worked well for me. (For those interested, it’s outlined in HOW TO CREATE A NOVEL NOTEBOOK in my writer’s library here on the www.vickihinze.com website.) Does that mean that I use the exact same process for every book?
No. But it does mean that typically I use some form of that same process.
How does it vary?
It depends on how the story came to me. Character, plot, theme–what point I’m shooting for in writing the story. Its purpose. And my purpose in writing it.
Is that always the case?
We tend to be creatures of habit. But in writing, the habit is to write. After that, all bets are off if we keep an open mind and we don’t want to become stale or burn out, which can be a hazard for those too set in their ways or their mindsets.
As you know, I’m currently working on a new CROSSROADS CRISIS CENTER series for Waterbrook-Multnomah. In that series, an event spurred the series creation, and it set the perimeters on the books that would be in it.
I sat down to plan the first three books, which is a habit of mine in writing series. I got the main theme and character and a general idea based on the character’s conflict. (In my writing world, I build one to the other. The external conflict is a mirror of me stomping on the main character’s internal conflict.)
In the case of the first book, FORGET ME NOT, the crafting of the story worked in reverse. That is to say I had the internal character’s conflict I wanted to stomp on first, and then I crafted an external plot that reflected or acted as the mirror.
The character, however, tossed me on my foolish elbow for thinking I was going to make novel choices. She took control in the first chapter and she hasn’t let go. I’m now on page 360, and I’m still following–and very eager to see how everything turns out.
That’s creative madness. And it’s a wonderful thing, not a liability but a great asset. The writer is often surprised, which fires that enthusiasm that drives the plot, demands more of the characters and creates an eagerness to see what is going to happen–and how it’s going to happen. It is, simply put, thrilling.
That said, until you put something into the well, you can’t draw anything out. How you put it in, how much, what flavor, and all the other “choices” made is significant.
I knew my purpose before starting. I knew the character’s purpose. I knew her conflicts, goals and motivations (and my own). I was inspired. I was invested. I was excited.
So my well was full from the onset. And that makes it no surprise that the character took over. She was in a creative sense, real, and reacted in a real way. That makes her far more interesting and complex to me and that carries over to readers.
This is the story I intended to write. But the creative madness unleashed makes it that story told from the perspective of the character and not from mine. Her story told her way. And yet my purpose remains intact.
It’s a marvelous experience, this transformation.
So if you’re writing by a set method and creative madness creeps in, let it. It’ll be a roller coaster ride. You’ll think it won’t work. You’ll think you’re going to have to go back and redo. Banish those thoughts and follow. Unleash and fly free. Enjoy the ride. It’ll test you, demand more than you thought you had to give, but if you forget your fears and just do it, you’ll experience the ultimate writing thrill.
And your book will be stronger for it.