Thursday, June 6, 2019

Determine Your Own Writing Methods

This week as I worked on a class I am teaching for Savvy Authors, I got to thinking about the right way to be an author versus the wrong way. Since I seem to have a problem with doing things right at times, I decided I needed to do a blog on the WRONG way to be a successful writer. I know I've made a lot of mistakes and I often feel like I'm three steps behind what I need to do next. Then I realized many people do blogs on the right way or the best way to work on writing. But I always seem to start out with the best of intentions and end up going the wrong way.

For instance, my frequent co-author Sue Viders and I just finished a new book on villains. (it will soon be available on  I enjoy writing with Sue because she is the organized sort or person and always seems to keep me focused on what I should be doing. Sue is always certain to watch for deadlines and try to get things finished ahead of time.  I work right up to the deadline.

You would think that someone who spent 35 years worrying about deadlines would still be very worried every time one is approaching. After all, my deadlines were not the sort one could afford to miss and they were deadly, often hourly deadlines. As a TV news producer, I had a firm deadline for starting a newscast, had to keep it on-time for a half hour or an hour or-- at one point-- for two hours five times a week. There was no option to be late. A story that wasn't finished during that hour did not get on the air. When I was producing a late newscast, I was told that since the Jay Leno show was in the studio next door, my program was being cut off whether I was finished or not. (and it's not like the show was actually live at 11:35pm. It had taped hours earlier and it was simply that the network was switching it on whether my program was wrapped up or not).

Writing fiction is a different animal. I have deadlines, but they are NOT minute to minute. Finishing a story five minutes late is not going to matter. But deadlines are still a serious matter. Getting the story to an editor who is expecting it or finishing a project right on time can still make all the difference. Deadlines NEED to be met.

My point is that as fiction writers we often don't set our own deadlines, but we still need to meet them. Our editors are expecting to receive edits by a certain time. They expect to get our stories on time or they might not have the opportunity to give the stories the attention they need.  We need to be mindful of our editors as well.

How do you work at meeting deadlines?  Do they frighten you to the point you get everything finished right on time? Or do you work so that you are finished early? For some people that can work very well.  For others it can be a problem because if they get done early, they find themselves tweaking or changing or fixing things to the point that they lose their spontaneity.

The key is to figure out how you do your best writing. Is it done when you have all the time in the world to be creative? Or do you need to keep working on it until you get it just right?  Or do you find you do your best work when you are under the pressure of a deadline because you know that final look may result in less dramatic work because that tweaking makes you question too much.

Look over your writing. When is it at its best? The too-edited work? Or the ideas that seem to flow at the last minute.  Knowing your best writing style can make a lot of difference.  For me, I try to give myself a deadline of a certain word count on certain days because I know that deadline will make me work extra hard that day and with the clock as my reminder, I work toward that end.  

Setting deadlines on a daily basis can be a good thing for a writer. For those of us who enjoy deadlines, it can work better.  Just like having a right way to write and a wrong way to write, we are all different in our approaches and the best way to get your writing done is to figure out your own style. It can be the very carefully plotted or planned way that my writing co-author, Sue, approaches things, or it can be more free flowing but with a deadline.  Only you can determine what works best for you. Trying to force yourself to fit into a mold will only make your writing suffer.  Learn your method and then try to be the best in that area.

For some it may be a regular deadline. For others, it could be working in a certain area or even getting out of the office and writing somewhere else. In addition to that little clock, I also keep a notebook with me wherever I go in case I get an idea or suddenly a scene hits me.  I've written scenes while waiting in a doctor's office, while sitting outside the school to pick up the kids or taking myself to lunch for a writing/working lunch.

Chose your successful writing method and then put it into action!

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