Monday, August 2, 2021

Different Styles Can Work Together

Writing has been my way of life since I turned twenty and began studying  journalism – I started writing for my college newspaper and never stopped. Out of college, I began working in television newsrooms where I not only had to write every day, but often under a deadline that might be seconds away.  

 On weekends and after retiring, I still kept writing – those were the hours I wrote took off my journalism identity and let my imation take over writing fiction. Over the years I wrote seven fiction books that have been published  -- three romances, three romantic suspense and one mystery novel as well as a number of  short stories that have appeared in three anthologies. I have also written a number of writing books, including three  that  were co-authored with my frequent co-author, writing teacher Sue Viders.  Several years ago we began writing a series called, Let’s Write a Story. Sue and I began our writing partnership as critique partners, but we both also loved teaching and soon began writing together.

 Over the years we discovered that while we both worked hard  and put in hour after hour of work, our styles were totally different. Sue has always been totally focused on structure and enjoys the plotting process and building the characters before she begins working. She is the epitome of the planning writer.

 I was the opposite—the sort of writer who has always preferred to sit down at  the typewriter, and now my computer, and simply started writing a story, placing the characters in a scene and letting them develop on the written page. In other words, Sue was a plotter or planner and I was the sort of writer who preferred to write by the seat of my pants.

 While I’ve written about our different styles and approach in the past and how it can be successful,  today I want to focus on our editing process. We also edit differently and how you can adopt our method to make certain your own work is polished and ready to go out the door.

 Sue and I have taught together and written non-fiction books together, but currently we are working on

our first work of fiction together. It is a cozy mystery that features two older women on a crusade for justice after one of them has her artwork copied and forged. We have basically finished writing our story and now we are currently in the editing process..

 One of the first things we discovered as we edited is that while she is very structured in her planning and writing, I am the person who is more focused on the editing elements of our story. We both enjoy working on characters and developing the plot and showing our characters as well as challenging them. We worked hard to make that happen in the story.

But the editing process has taught us more about the overall writing process. No book is going to

succeed if it is not carefully checked and edited. Readers will not spend day after day enjoying the best characters or a fast moving plot if there are errors or poorly written grammar in the book (unless it’s done in dialogue to define the characters).  Editing can make a real difference.

 We also have been able to play off each other’s ideas to bring them to life on the written page through our characters. Both of us identify with different characters in our book and we’ve used that to make the story more real.

 Over time, we have decided there are basically three different types of writers that we have encountered.  They are:       

 Plotters or those people who carefully make outlines, or write out a synopsis in advance or plot through chapter in advance, like Sue.

 Intuitive  - sometimes called pantsers or those type of writers who work by the seat of their pants. They write off the top of their heads and just let the story flow.  That’s what I do

 The third type is Hybrid – those people who might make a vague outline and then when they start writing they may change things or go off in a different direction. Over the years we have determined that there are certain things a writer – no matter what they are – must put into practice or they will not succeed:

 Study your genre

 No matter what type of writer you are, you need to know the genre you want to write. The best way to learn about the genre is to read in that particular genre. Whether you want to write a mystery, romance or fantasy or a combination, learn the nuances of the various genres and determine where your book falls. Genres are constantly shifting and these days they are often morphed into one story. If you want your book to sell, you should know that while you can mix them, one genre should hold the main thrust of the story.  Think in terms of romance in fantasy or in romantic suspense. Both elements are there, and both play into the story, but you need to be true to the guidelines of each genre to make your story succeed.

 For Sue that means learning and understanding the guidelines. For me, that means reading in the genre you want to write. Learn the different elements of it and then follow those guidelines. You can always bend the rules – after all this is creative writing, but you also want to know how far you can bend them before they are considered broken and editors turn down your stories.

 While you can mix or match your genres you might want to begin by writing in the genre that you like reading and writing best. You’re more apt to write a better story. However, don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s okay to break rules but know what you’re doing. Study the other genres before trying to write them.

 I started out writing romance stories. I liked reading that genre and I liked writing it.  But then I also liked reading mystery and suspense too – I mostly read mystery series, so I decided to try writing romantic suspense and I’ve never gone back to straight romance. I like the element of danger in romantic suspense novels and I also like writing a series. I have three going currently – My Dead Man series and My Blues Series and I just might do a sequel set at Redfern Manor, the scene of my novella Shadows from the Past, a spooky old house with lots of secrets and probably lots of stories.e

We also have differences in developing our characters, though we both agree on developing  ways to make our characters come alive.  No one loves a perfect character. Readers do not want to read stories where the hero or heroine is always right, always wins every battle and never shows any sort of frailty. Even Superman has his weakness—Kryptonite.  Characters should have faults and weaknesses of some sort, even if the weaknesses are small. No one is perfect all the time and your characters shouldn't be either. Determine which flaws you can use for your hero and heroine to make the plots more realistic or more engaging. Overcoming those flaws and weaknesses can be the road to a happy ending. 

Sue likes to know those character flaws before starting to write the story and she plans ahead of time on what they will be and how to use them in the story. I like to get characters into a situation because of a flaw and then let them work their ways out.

 However,  once a flaw is determined and you use it, look for other ways to bring it into the story. I let it emerge as I write the story. Just make certain you don’t suddenly change it halfway through so that your hero is afraid of heights in the beginning and fearlessly walking a tight rope later. He can walk the tight rope—just make him scared or use it as a challenge that he overcomes.

 The bottom line is to give your main characters some type of a flaw—major or  minor. They can be useful in character growth and making characters develop.

 These are only the beginning of the differences we have discovered in writing our stories.  In coming weeks, I’ll look at others.

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