The Different Writing Methods and Why Discovering Your Style is Important
How you write should excite and motivate you. Writing is hard enough as it is. If you’ve found a way that inspires you, just keep doing it. If you haven’t, let’s discuss a few methods.
One end of the scope is Outlining or Plotting. This is what we learned in school with Mind Mapping where you put your topic in the middle of a blank page.
Then you break that idea into smaller pieces which become your sections or paragraphs.
Then you break the sections into smaller ideas which become sentences and arrange them chronologically, or with the stronger arguments in ascending or descending order.
Last of all is the conclusion where you tie everything together.
Outlining for a novel is a little different in that those first sections become chapters and the smaller sections become scenes.
In order to entertain, we arrange our pieces and images so they flow upward toward the Critical Point. We’ve seen the Story Arc before with the beginning, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. That is your plot and when outlining, you’re matching the arc to your scenes before writing.
Winging a novel is the opposite end of the spectrum. Some people start with an idea or an image and just ask themselves, “Why?” and “How?” From there, the story grows every which way, just blossoming outwards. The beginning is anywhere compelling. The end is when there are no more questions left unanswered.
Somewhere in the middle of “Pantsing” (as the Nanowrimo writers would say) and “Plotting” is what they refer to as “Plantsing.” In which you determine which strategies you like best and combine them to fit your own needs.
You might find that you like writing the ending scenes first, so you know where your novel is headed. Or you might design chronologically. It’s all up to you.
Just to use my own experience as an example, I prefer to write the images I come up with into a Notes section. I write as much as I know or see about each image and then string them together with “maybe this happens that leads to that.”
Then I start from the beginning, writing image to image. This can cause writer’s block when I don’t know what comes before the next big scene or when I’m trying to finish a novel, but the ending is unclear. In those cases, I just write a list of scenes I know have to happen before the end of the novel. Then I just keep writing those images/scenes and stitch them together afterward.
Write a book in a weekend
If you've listened to Chandler Bolt, you may know his method for writing books quickly. He suggests 15 minutes of mind-mapping, 15 minutes of outlining and then just speaking your book, section by section into a recording device. You can then send the audio file to be transcribed. (Some services cost money, some don’t.)
When you get the files back, you edit them, switch sections around if necessary, change words, fix typos and/or send it off to an editor.
It’s quick and easy to have your book done in a weekend. (If this method appeals to you, you can check him out.) This option generally works better for those who like to speak their ideas rather than those of us who think better on paper than out loud.
Writing a lot or Writing a little
I feel there are two types of writers: those who write a lot from the get-go and have to go back and cut stuff out and those who write very little and have to add stuff in.
Whether you begin with a clear vision or just sit down and turn on the faucet to let the words flow, just do what feels natural. Write the ending first if that’s what you see. Work backward if that feels right. Or forwards. Or both.
This is your novel and there’s no wrong way to piece it together.
Feel free to play around with each method. Seriously, if you don’t already have your process down pat, take some time to try new things. You may find that you like something, or it makes you more efficient.
Why is this important?
Because often our intention is to become full-time writers who make a living off of their creativity. Understanding how our personal creativity works helps us to systematize creation or make it more efficient so we can count on it happening day after day.
Consistency is key. And when we train our brains to be creative every day, we're building a foundation of work that can then be published and sold.