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Writing Methods: Why (and How) I Write

Yeah, so I got bored with the old template. Google needs some spiffy new templates, IMHO, but nobody actually asked me.

Remember that great site I told you about? Some of the members decided to do a writing-themed blog chain, and since I never use my blog properly, I figured this might help me out.

Ideally, you follow the chain and visit the other posters' entries. Since I'm the second one to brave this first go-round, that means you should stop by the blog before mine and the blog after mine, and so on. (You can also use the Blogroll links to your right.)

On to the topic at hand: writing methods.

When I was about 11 years old, I had an English book that contained blurbs describing different novels. For some strange reason, it wasn't clear what the names of the books in question were.

I happened upon one blurb that I found particularly intriguing, and because I couldn't figure out what the book was, I decided to write my own. I'm too embarrassed to tell you what it was called, but I wrote it in bubbly blue ballpoint letters. I still have it somewhere, I'm pretty sure. If I weren't too embarrassed to show it to you, I'd dig it out and post some of it here.

After that, a friend and I decided we were going to write a novel together. We didn't get all that far before she decided she had better things to do. Like chase boys. I was a late bloomer, so the boys weren't interested in me. So I kept writing.

Writing became my haven, and all of my teenage angst went not into a journal, but into the lives of these characters who had become as real to me as real people.

I wrote my first few novels in spiral-bound notebooks. In blue (and often black) ballpoint pen. And I didn't just write, I edited the living you-know-what out of them. Since I believe that the brilliance is 90% in the editing, that's important.

Later I graduated to a word processor, and finally to a computer.

So what kept me writing?

I couldn't not write. In some ways being able to lose myself in my stories was asylum from my problems. And now, even though I don't have the same problems (mostly), I still feel compelled to write. It keeps me sane, which is sayin' something.

If I'm not writing something new, I work on old stories that need work. That disaster I posted above has an idea worth saving in it, so from time to time I go back and write a little bit more of a new novel stemming from that gem. (I think I just mixed my metaphors in a seriously bad way.)

I write mostly on the computer, though I find when I get stuck the best thing to do is pull out the old spiral-bound notebook and work there. Sometimes I only write a few pages that way; sometimes I end up with scene after scene written longhand.

For a long time, as I was learning to write, I'd note lines and paragraphs in books I was reading that really moved me. I'd fold the page down so I could find it later, then copy it into a new notebook to be analyzed at length. I never really picked up anyone else's style, but it did help me understand how the people I admired did what they did. If I come across something truly astounding now, I do the very same thing. (I also do it for factoids I find intriguing.)

I work on my writing almost every day. I climb into bed with my laptop and work for however long the muse whispers in my ear...and often when she's nowhere in sight. People who are close to me know that "I'm going to bed" doesn't mean I'll be sleeping anytime soon.

Some days I don't feel like writing, and I have to admit that this wireless internet thing hasn't been much help...but I still do it.

Fortunately, it's fairly easy for me to get into a flow state , which makes me want to write more. Based on the research Susan K. Perry did in Writing in Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity, setting aside writing time and simply sticking with it makes reaching flow easier over time.

When I'm working on a new story, my brain is constantly working in the background. If I have a flash of what should happen next, or even a line some character must say, I grab the closest scrap of paper and writing utensil and scribble it down. Even if I'm in the car. Or the shower.

Fortunately, I can read my own handwriting.

Tag, Elana, you're it!


  1. Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...
    Beautiful post. Darn, you guys are going to make me work at this, huh? I love seeing your handwritten samples. Thanks for sharing your inner workings.
    Kate Karyus Quinn said...
    Great post! I love the notebook with the mess of edits covering it - it definitely is important that you can read your own handwriting! However, I must call foul on the tease of the story you wrote based on another famous novel - I think at least a hint must be given.
    Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...
    Heh, good call. Actually, it wasn't based on a famous novel. Sorry if that was confusing.

    I wrote a novel when I was in high school that I think is based on a good idea. Since I write a lot better than I did in high school (well, I certainly hope I do, anyhow!), I'm slowly rewriting the book. Since it was so bad before, that means I'm essentially writing a new novel around the idea I had (and wrote about) when I was younger. :-D
    Anonymous said...
    Man, I can tell I've signed up with the wrong crowd. Cool notebooks Carolyn! Mine may not be as eloquent, or as moving, or as...anything. I'll do my best. :) Elana
    H. L. Dyer said...
    I agree with Kate. I don't care how obscure the novel in question is. I must know which story you've given an alternate ending.

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