Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Thursday, March 25, 2010

So all that talk about the plotter and the pantser in the previous post was not an endorsement of either style over the other. It was more about evaluating these boxes I put myself in to see if I actually belong there. I didn't used to do that to myself. Lately I've come to realize that boxing myself in was an attempt to gain some control over my life. My rigidity had limited success for a limited time, but when it stopped working I just kept it because I didn't know what else to do.

The rigidity carried over into writing. I had it in my head that linear writing was the goal. Since it's easier to give advice on how to plot a novel than how to write the way you want, the writing sites are full of that linear advice. Notecards, outlines, software, exercises. Real writers write every day, I'm sure you've all heard that at one time or another.

Well I've spent a couple of years giving up on rules. Now my only rule is: Do what feels right, not what the world has told me I must do. It takes practice to learn how to tell the difference between the inner voice and the outer, but I think I'm getting pretty good at it. And as a result, I'm not afraid to write anymore, which is a big deal. See, ever since I got an agent I've felt out of sorts. You'd think it would be a freeing situation, not having to worry about every little thing, but I found I was worrying approximately six and a half times as much. I think I've licked it, though, and now I write without fear. I put absolutely no pressure on myself in the way of word counts or time frames. It's nice to have a goal as a guide, but if I don't reach the goal I merely set up a new one rather than dwelling on how I missed the old one.

Today I found myself thinking, "This book could be somebody's favorite someday." I really believe it has that potential, if I continue the way I'm going. It's a cozy feeling. I have that reader in mind while I'm writing, that future woman/man/teenager who will cherish this book for at least a little while. I write for the one reader who will fall in love with my characters, and hold that love in her heart for years to come. Connecting with that one reader is my personal definition of success.

And, of course, a million more like her wouldn't hurt.

{ 13 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. Success is defined solely by money. More money, more success.

  2. That's a wonderful way of looking at your intended audience.

  3. Ah, but that's external success. I'd take that too, but money can't warm me the way a writer/reader connection can. If I get a lot of those, the money will come.

  4. Well, now, I like the interior decorating you've done! Looks good in there! Bravo!

    I'd also like to note that it drives me crazy that your comment box will permit double spacing between paragraphs, but the display of comments does not. Eh.


    I think writing for how you feel makes more sense for you than any other writing advice you've ever posted or discussed. Not forcing yourself into a labeled behavior certainly seems to have provided you with some excellent freedom and creativity, and has permitted you to hit more of your goals for your writing.

    I also think the way you're looking at the audience down the road is an interesting way to write. I, personally, write for V. She's a voracious reader and knows what's good. If I can elicit responses from her, I'm doing well, because she's not an emotional person. External expressions of emotion while she's reading (even if I'm NOT watching, heh) mean I'm doing good.

    And I like mixing pantsing and linear drive. I think laying out the path with linear plotting and putting everything in its place with structure is CRITICAL for me; this eliminates the "muddled middle" for me. Then I will pants my way, PANTS IT I SAYS, all the way to the end! PANTS ON THE GROUND!!

    Okay, enough agreement with you. Only five more months 'til FOOTBALL SEASON! Woo!

  5. Woo! Football! Pants on the ground! Woo!

    The paragraphing in the comments is wonky, I know, but I haven't had the oomph to figure out why. It's on my to-do list.

    Yeah, I've finally figured out that I do better if I jump around a little. Like in editing this book, I went through making notes and rough cutting. The next pass was supposed to go from start to finish fixing things. What I've found is that my brain gets fatigued after thinking about the same thing for ten minutes so I need to move on when that happens, even if it's not finished, and come back to it. It's a little schizoid, but I can work longer that way.

  6. Ah creative freedom and personal connection, my two favorite themes!

  7. One of my absolute favorite novels ever, almost no one else has ever heard of. It is out of print. Was never on a best of anything list. It would be great if I could make money from a successful novel. Great. But I can be happy if someone out in the world loved my novel as much as I love The Truth about Unicorns. That was the first serious book love of my life.

  8. I think it makes perfect sense. You are a very emotional, feely type of person, so writing that way seems like a logical conclusion. You know?

    I think the "rules" - grammar, sentence structure, spelling, all those things - you have those down. So now the trick is to build whatever you want, however you want, using those tools. You have a main structure, like a frame on a house, now you can put rooms in wherever you want, but the kitchen on the 2nd floor, put in a cupola, decorate however - just go with whatever looks good to you.

    And you're right, someone will come along and say, "Wow! I just imagining a house exactly like this!"


  9. Mine, too! There's only so many times I can write about them before I start repeating myself, though, which is why my posts have fallen off.

  10. I've never read that book, but I have several in mind which affected me the same way. I can only hope my writing will be on someone else's similar list one day.

  11. I've been conditioned to hear "emotional" as an insult, although I know logically it's not one. I'm in tune with my emotions, and I've found that my gut leads me straight if my brain is muddled. It's an important tool. Oh, and I know you didn't mean it that way. :)

  12. No, I didn't mean it in an insulting way!

    I'm more like Spock, you're more like Bones, that's all. :) I'll start calling you Dr McBlossom now. ;)


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