Saturday, August 07, 2010


As a newbie to RWA, Southern Magic, and romance writing in general, I was very excited and a little overwhelmed attending my first conference. Generally, people were friendly and the workshops informative. I learned a ton of information and enjoyed the experience. But, for me, there were two key things I took from it (aside from all the wonderful books!!) that I wanted to share:

1. Everyone Does It Differently.
2. Ignorance Is Not Bliss.

One of the main questions I heard asked to published authors was whether they were a plotter or a pantser. And while the answer generally placed them in one or the other category, the underlying technique was almost always different (plowing straight through the first draft without looking back, reviewing and editing everything written before starting for the day, outlining with index cards or using the screen writing method). Sometimes authors shared their experience of trying the technique of a friend and explained that they found writing the story harder. This hit home for me because I've been banging my head against writer's block for some time. It made me question whether I've truly found my own method as a pantser or, as Susan Phillips put it in her workshop, I'm really a plotter being lazy...

What about you? Have you tried a different method of writing? If so, did it work better or worse?

The second thing that hit home for me was how ignorant I am about writing. Don't get me wrong; I've been reading and learning about writing, but only as a craft. I have not studied the business. Silly me, I thought that was something I was far from needing to know. After all, I can't seem to finish a first draft, let alone start the query process. But, I learned this is not the case. Not only is it necessary, but it can also be a little embarassing when you should know something or someone and haven't taken the time to learn. Ignorance is not bliss.

So do you keep up with the business aspect of writing? If so, how?


Callie James said...

Good post, Kat! I definitely have my own method of writing, but when I'm trying to finish on a deadline, I will sometimes switch to a "pushing through" method just to get it finished. But my usual is the "review and edit everything from the day before" method.

I think it's good to know the business side, but seriously, the most important aspect is the writing. Just write a good book. Everything else will come later.

Kat Jones said...

I'm considering trying the review and edit method or the screen writing method. I suspect I'm more of a plotter than I've admitted to myself. :)

I think that's great advice, especially since I'm trying to complete my first MS.

M.V.Freeman said...

My focus is on writing, I try to keep an eye out on the business side...but lets face it, if you don't have don't have anything to get out there.

You are right--ignorance is not bliss in writing, its frustrating! :-)

Keep going and get that MS done!

RK said...

Thanx Kat! As someone who one day hopes to make it to nationals, I really appreciated your sharing your experience. :)

Paula said...

What's the screenwriting method? Or is it screen writing? Either way, it sounds interesting.

I'm a "spreadsheet it" kind of writer. I spreadsheet my pre-planning (when I'm piecing together the characters and the plot). Then I spreadsheet my daily writing so I can make sure I'm writing enough pages per day to meet my deadline. I guess that makes me a plotter on steroids? I don't storyboard, though. I can't quite take it to that level of organization, no matter how I try.

I just found what works for me. My method keeps me on track and the level of planning helps me deliver a solid manuscript quickly while also working a day job. Other people in other circumstances would do things differently.

Jeanie said...

I'm a plotser, a pantser with HCMs in my head when I start a story. (Heart clutching moments) I usually know how I want the story to begin, have a few key points or scenes I want to include, strike out and try to tie them all together. I use index cards to remind myself of things I want to include. Then, as the story grows, I make a list at the back of the book of things I need to remember to tie up or put in.

That screenwriting workshop was a real eyeopener for me. The speaker said a movie or book has three acts, like a play. She taped index cards on the wall. Each act should have action and a climax.

But here's what grabbed me the most about what she said. She said don't worry so much about writing a terrific first line, or the HOOK everybody always talks about. She said to concentrate instead on painting a vivid opening image for the reader, like a scene in a movie trailer that grabs the movie goer and makes them want to go see the movie. Write that vivid opening scene putting the reader THERE, she said, and don't worry about a hooky first line. Liked that a lot.

M.V.Freeman said...

I need to see that workshop!

Jeanie said...

Mary, I don't have it, but I think you can order the workshops on cd that you are interested in from RWA.

M.V.Freeman said...

Thanks Jeanie,
I will---demanding wench that I am! :-)
Appreciate the information!

Cari Hislop said...

I think of myself as a pure pantser because even though I might have vision like flashes of scenes for a story, they don't always end up used. It took me about five books to figure out how I write (three have been completely rewritten). I think that's one of the most important things you can learn as a you write!

Jeanie makes a really good point about hooking readers into the story by putting them there. As a reader I want to know where the characters are, but as a writer I still forget sometimes that the reader can't read my mind or see what I see unless I tell them.