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Thursday, August 15, 2013

An Author in Training - "Know Thyself" (Part 2)

I know, I know . . . .

I promised back on July 25, that I'd tell you what I'd learned about myself as a writer. So, here you go:

I ran into a major case of writer's block early in the summer and I couldn't figure out why. As I struggled with understanding it and overcoming it, I reached what I believe is a major insight about myself as a writer. I realized that at the beginning of the summer, I submitted a book proposal to an agent, for a book still in progress, and it was after that when the writer's block showed up.

Now I think I know why. One of the ingredients of a proposal is a chapter-by-chapter outline of the story. Some writers do their best writing from an outline--what I would call a "constructed" writer. Other write their best by letting the story grow--what I'm calling an "organic" writer.

Long story short, I think I'm an organic writer. I find my best writing happens when I let the story grow as it grows. I may prune it, train it, re-pot, graft bits onto it, but basically, it is what it grows to be. For me, that seems to result in a story that feels like it's being told by someone who was there.

My problem this summer? I had an outline! I've always been taught that a good writer "should" create and write from an outline. So, I was trying to be a "good" writer, and write the story the way the outline said it was going to go. What does an outline know? My characters and I decide what's going to happen next! That's what makes writing fun and interesting for me (and I think for my readers).

So, I've decided to ditch the outline. Oh, I'll stick it in a drawer and refer to it for general guidelines--sort of. But I know where the story started from, and I know where it's going. (The ending is already pretty much written.) I'm excited to see how it grows.

You're welcome to come along for the ride.

P.S. I'm coming to believe that all of us tend to naturally live our lives more one way or the other—constructed or organic. There's no right or wrong. Asking which one is right is like asking, "Which is right, an oak tree or a house?" There's a place for both. The problem comes if we can't flex enough to use the other approach when necessary. Which way seems to work better for you?

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