How to Write: How You Think
Posted by erikthereddest
Hello everyone! Last week I talked about how Daleks weren’t that bad of an idea after all (in my opinion, actually quite brilliant) and continued my promise to post some of my own
writing. Well, before we get to that, I’d like to take a look at something that I have been working on for a while now as I attempt to develop my style in fiction, as well as my world building and creativity (yes, that is something to develop; see my post about the cliché shelf). That something is the writing process.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Oh great, another writer telling me how to write.”
Actually, I want you to tell you how to write. It’s very simple, actually.
Learning Things About Myself That Should Have Been Obvious
When it came to figuring out how to do this whole writing thing, I read books about writing, begged for guidance from my writer friends, and absorbed and contemplated countless systems for organizing and developing my fiction writing that seemed generally uncomfortable and unsuited for me.
Then Melissa pointed out something I never thought of: I already know how to write.
I have written tons of essays and research papers for school, and I have a clear approach to handling these tasks. Now, academic papers are clearly different from creative writing in scope and intent, but why should we have to develop two different approaches to writing?
A Matter of Grey Matter
As far as I know (and feel free to add to this in the comments), there are two main ways to approach a writing project:
- Building Block: Each piece of the argument is a self-contained project, such that the whole of the essay is a construct of individually-crafted parts. In this approach, the writer works on each section until it is deemed finished, then moves on to the next. According to Melissa, this is how she works.
- Sculpting: The argument is a solid chunk of writing that has to be tackled methodically and gradually as a whole, not as subdivided parts. The first pass is rough and sloppy, but each revision brings the entire paper closer to the goal. This is how I write an essay.
This is different from the character driven vs. plot driven approach to writing as that is a consideration in developing your ideas. What I’m talking about is how you actually get words on the page. For me, the building-block approach means that before I even start crafting prose, I construct an outline. Adapting this method for my own creative writing is still experimental, but here’s how it works:
- Stage 1: Basic Events– No details, only simple abstractions such as:
- -Car Crash
- Stage 2: Sub-Events– This is where you start fleshing out the events into scenes:
- -Home (wakes up, thinking while at mirror, sees clock, rushes out door)
- -Driving (turns on radio, thinks about politics, thinks about dad’s politics)
- -Car Crash (notices construction, sees lazy workers, phone buzzes, swerves to avoid worker, crashes into dump truck)
- -Hospital (Wakes up in hospital bed, no one is there, checks clock, realizes no windows, realizes is chained to the bed, armed soldiers burst into room with guns drawn)
- Stage 3: Fill in Ideas, Reactions – Now it’s starting to get good! This is where you figure out exactly where some of your favorite ideas and lines will go. If you’re like me, the things that get you thinking about a story are scenes, ideas, and lines. I envision a guy waking up in a hospital bed and realizing he’s actually in a shady research lab. I think of a snarky one-liner the character says to the doctor before executing his brilliant plan of escape. I think of the awesome government project that turns my character into an unstoppable revenge machine bent on destroying the cooperation that decided to play God. At this stage, I copy/paste things from notes, copy down scribbled lines, reference diagrams I drew in the margins of class notes (I can’t be the only one who does this). This is where the world-building approach meshes into my writing process, but it’s also where a character driven approach feeds in. Figuring out exactly how a character reacts when and to what is important if you write like I do.
A Long Story Short…
This is all to say, when trying to figure out the best way to write creatively, don’t discount your already established methods for taking on projects. This doesn’t just mean how you write papers, but how you think about tackling assignments at work or how you wrap your brain around renovating your house. You shouldn’t only “write what you know,” you should “write how you think.” Cramming yourself into a mold just because it’s how other people write will only further stifle your creativity and make it harder to do what you want to do.
Well that’s it for now! Next week I’ll attempt to demonstrate my writing process with some flash fiction, along with a breakdown of how I wrote it and why. Until then, how do you write? Is it like how you handle other projects? Let me know in the comments below!
About erikthereddestI'm a Masters student in English, and I love technology and Science Fiction. I am refining and enhancing my (admittedly novice) writing talents under the sage advice of my friends here at Lantern Hollow Press, and with the great many books I am reading from the best authors I can find.
Posted on October 17, 2012, in Erik Marsh, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Style and Structure, Writing Hints and Helps and tagged creative writing, essays, how to write, systems of writing. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.