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Thursday, March 31, 2011

 

You've got My Style!


Many times we have fixed ideas regarding how to do a task. When the process works for us, that’s great; but sometimes we feel stuck. The process isn’t working. We fret, pace, lose sleep and wonder what’s wrong with us. Nothing is wrong; we just need a different process.

One time in junior high school I didn’t finish a written report. On the day we were to give the reports orally the teacher allowed me to give an impromptu speech instead. Afterward she told me, “If you had written that down you would have received an ‘A’ but because you didn’t follow the rules I can only give you a ‘C’. The lesson learned here is always do things the way you are told—or is it?

Many years later I was taking a writing course. The process was clearly stated:


  • Create your character profiles.

  • Write your outline.

  • Create a flow chart to mark the arc of the story.

  • Write your story.

  • Make sure you have 'X' percentage of dialog, etc...

For the life of me I could not get that story out. The process felt backwards to me. My urge was to just write the darn thing. I had no idea who the characters were going to be, I would not know until they showed up, so I got stuck.

Some of us are “formula” people; we like structure, a map, a recipe. Some of us are more free-form. Then there are the times when the way we usually do it isn’t getting it done, that’s when we need to re-adjust our process. The trouble is—sometimes we don’t know how.

That’s when a community WOW! comes in handy. Hearing how other people go about a task inspires within us new ideas. So, what’s your style? Are you a formula-type or a free-form? Do you start with outlines and character profiles or just go for it? Share your thoughts here. Let’s see who’s got your style!

Robyn Chausse

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7 Comments:

Blogger Sheila Siler said...

I have found that I am a free form, and then I go back and find out who my characters are, then do my re-write.

4:28 AM  
Blogger Sioux said...

I am like Sheila Siler...I'm more free form. However, I love your advice to change things up if what usually works for you is NOT working. Once I wrote a short memoir piece--in prose--and it was not working. After I wrestled around with it for a while (in vain) I finally tried it in the form of free verse poetry. Now it remains one of my favorite poems!

In other words, embrace the "change up."

5:01 AM  
Blogger Mommakin said...

I am definitely free form. I have tried to fight it - to corral it - but I always lose. I am fascinated by people who take a more disciplined approach, though, often feeling like they are 'better' than me.

5:22 AM  
Blogger Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Good post! I tend to be organized and plan things out in life, and I wish I was like that in my writing process, but the more I try to do that, the more the stories and characters, etc., rebel. :)

7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robyn- this is a great article! For me, I am neither formula nor form free, but a combination of both, depending on the writing project.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Miss Good on Paper said...

I can really relate to this post. After taking a graduate workshop (during my MFA) in which the teacher imposed a very particular writing process on us, I learned to hate outlining.

When I teach essays to beginning composition students, outlines help. But creative writing, to me, is hard to pin down into an outline. There needs to be more freedom. Thanks for sharing this!

11:09 AM  
Blogger Robyn Chausse said...

So far it looks like we have a bunch of rebels here:)

Sioux, Nice switch! Thanks for sharing that tip.

Anonymous, Flexibility really is the key to being a prolific writer--good for you!

Miss Good, So...do you cringe when you teach outlining now? :)

Great input!
Are there any old-school types out there?
Does anyone have another example of how they changed the format to improve the project?

Thank you to everyone who has shared so far!

2:13 PM  

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