Thursday, February 4, 2010

Writing Style

I'm learning things about how I write. More specifically, how I write successfully.*

I'm convinced that Writers with Character come up with a brilliant title, dazzling characters, a wicked hook, and a stunning plot. They outline. They plan. They write fifteen hundred to two thousand words every day and make a book.

I get the rest of it, the revising, the critiquing, the editing, the re-revising, the totally re-writing. I know that part. But the planning, the plotting, the outlining, is like some gorgeous pear at the top of the tree -- no matter how much I reach for it, I can't touch it, and then I'm sore and cranky.

But, being the kind of girl I am (a little slow), I keep trying for it. I reach for that outline. I write so many words every day. I struggle. I hate my words. I sigh at my futile reaching. But what do you know: there's another pear, equally gorgeous, waiting for me right at eye level. I just need to change my focus and grab it.

I may not be a Woman of Character (surprise!) and I'm going to have to be okay with that. I may never have a successful writing experience coming from an outline. I may never even write a plot-heavy book. But there are other pears on the tree, see?

Let's switch metaphors here:

My writing style is different from what I think it should be. I'm not that Writer of Character I imagine. I'm more like a toddler playing with pretty beads, picking one up and looking at all sides of it, holding it up to the light, tasting it, maybe shoving it up my nose (or maybe not), and deciding I love it. So I put that bead in the Keepers pile. Then I pick up another bead, one that makes me smile, or maybe even one that reminds me of something sad that I don't really want to forget. So I'll stare at that bead for a while, polishing it on my shirt, and put it into the Keepers pile, too. Before too long, I have a great big pile of shiny beads, some big glass ones, some cheesy plastic ones, some groovy silver ones. I love my pile.

But what good is a pile of beads?

So I have to string them. And then probably dump them back onto the table. And restring them and dump them a few more times. Then I'll see that I need a few more beads. And some spacers. And I'll take a little break here and there. And do you know what happens then? I can put an end clasp on it, and it will be complete. A whole necklace.

Will it make me a fortune? No. Will everyone want a necklace just like that? Certainly not. Will I be able to love it anyway? I will. Because I chose each bead. I polished each one and took time to love every inch of the string.

And so it is when I write successfully. I allow myself to write the scene I'm feeling. To dive in to the middle of a relationship and then let the details, the process, the lead-in follow. To discover each shiny, light-filled bead and to put it in a pile. To go back and write another scene, choose another bead, until I fill my pile with scenes I love: some big ones, some shiny ones, some cheesy ones, some gorgeous, light-filled ones.

And when it's time to string them together, I remind myself that this isn't the end -- I'm not finished if I don't want to be. There can be more stringing and un-stringing and re-stringing until I'm pleased with the whole effect.

But what if my favorite bead doesn't fit? Do I have to throw it away? Course not. I can put it on the desk and look at it every day. Maybe it will inspire a whole new necklace.

And isn't that the whole idea? The Inspiration part? So here's my point. (You knew I had one, didn't you?) Ask everyone about their style. Pry. Discover all the pears on the tree. Try reaching for some. Find the one that's in your reach.

Then go forward. Plot, if you're a plotter. Eavesdrop, if you're a dialoger. Analyze, if your a character-er. Pick up those pretty beads if you're a beader. Outline, for heaven's sake, if you're an outliner. And good for you. Do it. Write it. Paint it. Create it. Sing it. Whatever you're doing, do it. Add to the pile.

When the pile grows, that can only be a good thing.

*With adverbs, apparently.


  1. It surprises me a great deal that in any way you'd think your writing is less than stellar. Why? Because BBM was a feast of character. It was a virtual smorgasborg of feeling and depth. You write with meaning. You write with heart. Your's more than just some shiny beads on a string. It's pearls. It's glittering diamond. And you can take my word for it, for what it's worth.

  2. It's comforting to know you struggle too. Still, BBM turned out quite nice.

  3. Wow, deep thoughts by Becca, such a great analogy with handpicking each bead. I will buy all your necklaces that you sell. Can't wait to read your newest one. :)

  4. I think I'm not a writer of character either. I write one bead at a time. :)


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