Goal, motivation, and conflict. The theme and motif. Use a collage, Conflict grids, character maps, pacing, and a three (or four) act structure in planning your story. Tension, point of view. Where’s the black moment? Never switch point of view in the midde of a scene, forget prologues and never, ever have an epilogue. Use dialogue tags, don’t use dialogue tags.
Yeah, ok, whatever. I confess I don’t analyse anything when I write. Maybe on a subconsious level I do, but that’s sort of moot when you’re sitting in a masterclass or attending a writer’s conference where everyone seems to talk the talk. I speak two languages and Writerese is not one of them.
I simply write. I don’t plot, make collages, or think about the many “rules” for writing–beyond grammar, spelling, and punctuation. And it seems to work for me. I have a story. No one has questioned me about my conflict, or goals, or asked me where my black moment was. Ever. For me writing happens intuitively.
Yesterday was spent in an masterclass with 2 very different well-known published authors and five other aspiring writers, writers who suck this all down with a straw and talk about how eye-opening and incredibly useful the workshop was. While I was, and am, fascinated by the process others use, especially authors like Anne Stuart, Jenny Crusie (and Susan Elizabeth Phillips), this is what was going through my mind: WTF?
I have never doubted my ability to write. Jenny Crusie told me what I already knew, I am a GREAT writer. Yeah, it sounds big headed, but I know I don’t suck and I’ve never thought I couldn’t write. I know I’ve gotten much, much better over the last 3 years. That’s clear when I look at my first novel that weighed in at a hefty 217,000 words (no one told me that was over 600 pages) and compare it to what I am writing now. I’ve honed my craft, I continue to improve, and do it without a clear framework. I swing by the seat of my pants while I put together pieces of a puzzle without even knowing what it is I’m going to be loooking at, and it comes together. Yet, sitting through sessions at the RWA and yesterday’s masterclass, I had what I can only call mini anxiety attacks.
WRONG!! you’re doing this all wrong!! You’ve got no plan, no synopsis, you don’t have a theme or motif, there’s no sense of community in your story, the setting isn’t doing anything to enhance the action, you don’t know who the protagonist is, you switch point of view….Faker! Faker!!! You’ll never get published…Hahahahaha!
This feeling sat on my shoulders all through dinner. I did a Smokey Robinson Tears of a Clown thing. I joked and laughed while I still had that little voice in my head saying…youuuuu suuuuuckkkkk! Because this self doubt was so foreign, so new, when the gentleman across the table asked me who I was, I actually responded like this: “Me? I’m nobody.”
The woman to my right, a previously mentioned well-loved author, said, “Oh, I can’t believe you just said that.”
And you know what? That’s exactly what I thought too. Ok, so maybe there was something about tone of her voice sounding so very much like all the women in my family (it’s an Ohio thing), but she snapped me out of my funk and I realised I’d forgotten something that said at the RWA and masterclass, something important. I take what works for me and discard the rest.
Duuuhhhh isn’t that what I’ve been doing all along?
Yes, dipshit. You have.
In that instant, my self-doubt disappeared. However, I suddenly felt like a jackass for saying something so stupid in front of JC. So, JC, let me just apologise for being a ditz, for degrading the craft, insulting women in general, but mostly for doubting my own ability.
I’ll continue to puzzle my way. I’ll head-hop, let my characters speak for themselves, and never, ever analyse a thing. After, all, this is my baby and nobody’s gonna tell this Mama how to raise my children.