Jane has unique insight into many aspects of writing including blogs, articles and of course, romance novels. At one CRW meeting, she described her method of writing a novel. She described my creative process to a T. I asked her to share her story with Seekerville. She said yes : )
WRITING-CUT AND PASTE STYLE
Did you know that movies are not shot in sequential order? Scenes are shot for convenience, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. For example, if a movie contains a number of scenes that occur in the mountains, they are shot all together, then cut and spliced into the proper place in the movie.
I only learned this recently as I lamented to my husband (once again) that I was at the point in writing a book where I needed to put my scenes in the proper order and write the dreaded transitions to connect them.
He consoled me by telling me how movies are shot. “If it’s good enough for the film-makers, it’s good enough for you,” he said. This was said with a slight smirk. My husband is a mechanical engineer who approaches everything in linear fashion. My writing, indeed my whole life, is anything but linear.
Eager as I was to justify my haphazard way of writing, though, I embraced his words.
Now that you know my deep, dark writing secret, I’ll let you in on another one: writing this way is hard work. It means keeping track of where you’ve placed certain scenes and retrieving them. It then means finding the right spot to place the scene. And, just when you think you’ve figured it out, you have to move it again.
How did I come to this point?
A lot of the reason comes from the fact that I started writing when I had three small children at home. Writing came a distant tenth or twentieth or a hundred and thirty-second on my list of things to do. It was fit in between changing diapers, throwing a load of laundry into the washer, and wiping off sticky fingers.
This was in the pre-computer (some would say prehistoric) days. I wrote long-hand, then transcribed my scribblings to an old typewriter which I kept plopped on the kitchen table. It was moved for mealtimes, then plopped back there again.
I snatched whatever moments were available for my writing. As you can imagine, this resulted in a mish-mash of half-finished paragraphs and scenes that were cliff-hangers only because I didn’t know what would happen next or when I would get back to them.
Meanwhile, time and technology marched on. I had progressed to a computer, added another baby to the family, and was slowly figuring out word processing. My writing space moved to the laundry room, where my computer sat proudly on a table that served as laundry-folding central.
I kept writing. I submitted books, only to have them rejected. It was at this point that I found Colorado Romance Writers and, through that chapter, discovered RWA. I remember my elation to discover a group of writers who were experiencing the same struggles I was and dreamed the same dreams that I had.
And then it happened. I sold a book. Three years later, I sold another, then another.
But my writing process hadn’t changed. If anything, it had gotten more chaotic. Could that mirror my personal life, I wondered. Our family adopted the little girl we were foster-parenting and now I had five children to care for.
Computers made it easier to cut-and-paste scenes. I no longer had arrows drawn between lonely paragraphs. Now I had little notes to myself inserted into the manuscript reminding me that I would need to move certain scenes when the time came.
So, let’s take a look at the disadvantages of writing this way:
- You have to keep track of what happens when and what follows that. A timeline is handy.
- You have to write transitions. I don’t know about you, but transitions are my bug-a-boo. Writing how a character and the action move from one scene to another is awkward. My words feel stiff and stilted.
- You have to move scenes and perhaps whole chapters until the fit is right. This is much like putting together a 55,000 piece jigsaw puzzle without a picture to guide you.
- You may end up throwing out chunks of writing when you discover that they don’t fit into your story any more. (But don’t we do this anyway?)
Are there any advantages to writing this way?
- You don’t have to wait until inspiration for the next scene strikes you. You can write any scene. For me, knowing that I’m writing, making progress, is all-important. At the end of the day, I want to look back at my writing and know that my story is moving forward, even if that movement is in a zig-zag pattern.
- You don’t waste time. Your writing time is spent writing, not wringing your hands because you don’t know what happens next.
- You find some interesting surprises along the way. These surprises may take your story on a different route, causing your characters to follow an unforeseen journey that strengthens the plot and avoids predictability.
Do I recommend writing this way?
Yes. And no. Try it. You may like it.
On the one hand, you may find that it frees your creativity in ways you hadn’t expected. On the other hand, you may decide that writing out of order offends your sensibilities and sense of order.
A lot of your experience depends upon whether you are a pantser or a plotter. Some refer to this as being right-brained or left-brained. Over the course of selling thirty-two books (and writing a number of books that didn’t sell), I learned to accept my process and writing style.
As always, learn what works for you, do it, and then do it all over again.
The author of 32 books and more than 400 articles and stories, including 11 for Chicken Soup, Jane McBride Choate has been writing ever since she can remember. Penning stories about love and relationships is both a vocation and avocation for her.
Visit Jane at her blog The Gratitude Project, and for all you American history buffs, Jane also hosts the The Patriot Pages. Both are great reads. Check them out!
AND we have a giveaway! Jane is offering one of her books to a Seekerville commentor today. Check the Weekend Edition for the winner!
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