One of the most important things you can do as a writer is take your personality into account. Don’t try to deny or change who you are to fit into some pre-conceived writer mold you’ve pictured all your life. Use your strengths and give yourself permission to come up with your own method, because writers are a diverse group. Often, the only thing they have in common is that they write.
If you really want to write a lengthy, literary, historical piece, don’t write a teen vampire romance just because that’s what’s selling at the moment. If you’re not the type who can sit behind a desk for long periods, but you love nature, take your work outdoors. If you’re an artistic type, maybe sketching or painting your scenes or characters will help you to capture them in prose as well.
For instance, I have Scrivener software and I love the corkboard feature. However, when I decided on a rewrite and began outlining in earnest, I found myself distracted by having my computer in front of me. And the digital corkboard seemed to be stifling my inspiration.
So I went out and bought a large corkboard for $9.99 and stocked up on index cards and pushpins. Suddenly, I had a physical item in my hand that I could flick with my finger, tap against the corkboard frame, and flick across the room as needed. I also had a portable workspace that could be propped on my desk, laid across the piano bench, or even balanced on the stove while I did dishes. The cards were relatively safe from the whirlwind that is my toddlers and from my dogs, cat, husband, and my own scatterbrained and accident-prone self.
Lots of writers choose to utilize programs available for use on computer, tablet, and smart phone so their work goes with them everywhere. Evernote is one commonly mentioned by writers I know and I currently use Google Keep. For me, this first time at least, the phone or tablet would have posed the same problem of distraction as the computer. Granted, I couldn’t really take the corkboard everywhere, but it worked for my situation.
Also, I am largely an auditory learner. I’ve always absorbed information best when reading aloud and - much to my continual embarrassment and the amusement of my husband and college roommates – I talk to myself. Sometimes I’m planning my day. Sometimes I’m practicing what I plan to say to someone. And these days, I’m often sorting through plot points, sounding out dialogue, and even interviewing my characters.
With this in mind, I ALWAYS read my work aloud. This is often recommended for all writers. It allows you to catch mistakes you may have missed. It also helps you get a feel for the rhythm and flow of your work. I think it has improved my dialogue as well. Sometimes, when reading a character’s words aloud, I catch something that they would never have said, or even something that no one would say. I think it’s easier to weed out the unnatural when you are actually speaking the line.
So, think back to the ways you learned best in school and take into account the things you actually enjoy doing when writing. Parts of writing are a drag, just as in any profession. But, most of it doesn’t have to be, if you accept that your method is the “right” way, so long as it works for you. It doesn’t need to meet anyone else’s approval; no one will know from the end result that you penned the best lines of your piece upside down on your couch or under your desk in a blanket fort with a cerulean crayon.
Check out my new YouTube video, a reading of my short story “Initiations,” and next time I’ll fill you in on what I learned about the piece in the process of recording it.