So, you have an idea for a story, but no idea where to begin. As kids, we were taught to story board, write out plot diagrams, create synopsis, and many other planning steps. But the harsh reality is that creative writing doesn’t always flow that way. Many times, the best authors have very different writing styles, and that is okay! Forcing yourself to write in a way that is not your niche with only result in sub-par work. So, throw away all the old ideas of how you develop a story and find what works for you.
But what if you don’t know what works for you? Try a few different things! Trial and error are sometimes our best friends. Learning how our brains and creative juices work best is all a part of the writing experience. Let’s look at a few tips to help you discover your writing style.
Some work requires the author to do research. For certain styles, this research can be extensive while other styles of work may not require much if any research at all. Doing research can be a frustrating part of the writing experience, especially if you don’t particularly like research. So how can you tackle it?
1. Pre-writing research- some artists find that doing research before they even begin the work is a great way for them to gain ideas, inspiration, and content. These authors sometimes spend months or even years researching their topic in preparation for the final work. The great thing about doing research this way is that you are well versed going into your work, knowing your topic in full from the beginning. The down side is that you can spend time researching topics or sections of your topic that you never end up using.
2. Research as you go- other artists find that this method is the best way for them. With this method of research, the artist research each specific area of their topic as they need it. For instance, a historical writer may research the clothing of the era when describing a character, while later researching the local customs when describing those in the work. The perk to this is that you can begin your work and research along the way, allowing the creative process to guide what you research and when. The down side is that you run the risk of not having a full understanding of the topic and thus accidentally misrepresenting the facts.
For work such as poetry or pros, this is not necessarily an aspect of the creative process. But for most authors, a strong storyline is the backbone to your work. But coming up with that storyline can look different for many different authors.
1. Firm storyline- With this method, the author sits down and creates a storyline that they intend to follow. Some authors find that they enjoy detailed storylines that outline intricate facts. This allows them to have a skeleton on which to build their story and a guide to follow through the process. Many non-fiction writers use this type of story line to build their work due to the fact that they are telling a story that already exists. Keeping a firm storyline in place helps them to maintain the integrity of the story they are telling. Some fiction writers enjoy this method as well, especially when they have a very specific story to tell.
2. Soft storyline- Other writers find that they like loose storylines that allow for more creativity along the way but still help to keep them on track as they go. They storyline the major events before beginning but leave room for the details to be filled in as they proceed through the writing processes. Many fiction writers tackle the writing process this way to allow them the freedom for creativity while still helping them to stick to the story they originally set out to tell.
3. No storyline- This method of writing allows for the most creative freedom, but also has the greatest risk for your story taking on a life of its own and changing throughout the writing process. Some writers really prefer this though. Creative writing is most commonly the genre which embraces this type of storyline planning, but not exclusively. Some authors enjoy letting inspiration from their lives and their observations influence their writing and thus reject the traditional idea of creating a storyline. However, these authors also need make sure their work eventually tells a complete story and that a distinct storyline can be seen in the final work.
Building complete and compelling characters is a must for any good piece of work. There are, of course, exceptions, but most types of work have at least one character, even if that character is simply the voice of the work. Even poetry and pros have a voice and thus have a character. Of course, those types of characters require less work than characters found in stories, plays, or other such work. Development of your characters can make or break your work and is an important part of the creative process. Details of the characters should stay consistent or else the author runs the risk of confusing the reader and derailing the story.
1. Detailed character building- Some authors like to plan all the details of their characters before beginning their work. This allows for the greatest consistency throughout the work with the least risk for accidentally changing details. However, like any other detailed pre-planning, this method also leaves the least amount of room for creative interpretation along the way.
2. Free-flow character building- Other authors enjoy allowing their characters to develop through the creative process. This can allow for flexibility and creativity to move the author and develop the characters. However, the risk involved here is under-developed characters or details that change unintentionally through the story. If using this method of character building, I highly recommend keeping notes on your characters that you can refer back to later to maintain consistency.
Carving out a time to write can look different for many different people. Let’s face it, we are all busy and few of us get the luxury of writing as our full-time job. For many of us, writing is a hobby or a side job that we are fitting into the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Many authors can stress themselves out about following a certain schedule or designated time to write. Finding your best schedule will help you create the best content.
1. Time of day- ask yourself when your best time of day is and if you can write during that time of day then you should. I am not a morning person, myself. So, writing first thing in the morning is just not a good idea for me. I find that my work is best when I write in the evening. While I have known other writers who find that the quiet of an early morning with a nice cup of coffee is the best recipe for sparking creativity. Find your best time and aim for it.
2. Day to day or in spurts- Some writers find that they work best writing something every day. Other writers find that they work best working in spurts. For instance, I often will not write something for days at a time and then when inspiration hits, I spend hours and hours writing each day for a few days. Then I may go another couple days without writing again only to repeat the cycle. I am very much a sporadic writer, but I find that is the best way to get the best content. However, other authors feel that their best work comes when they write at least a little each day and keep the content fresh in their minds.
3. Length of time- some authors like setting aside a designated time block of their day to write. This allows them to schedule the writing in and have the freedom to create within a designated window without feeling the weight of their other activities breathing down their necks. While other authors determine the length of time they write by the content they are writing. If they scene or chapter they are creating takes a few hours or more, they are committed to finishing that content before moving on to the next task at hand. While other authors are a blend of the two.
Other Things to Consider
Chronological writing- Chronological writing is simply that, writing the story in chronological order from start to finish. Some authors find this to be the best way for them to write. While others choose to write scenes and chapters as they find inspiration, tying them all together along the way. Whether you choose to write from start to finish or jump around, always be aware of storyline and making sure your story is complete.
Notes- Some authors find it extremely helpful to keep notes along the writing process. Some will keep a small journal or writing pad with them at all times to be able to jot down ideas when they come. Taking notes can also help you as an author to maintain consistency with characters, events, and settings.
External review- Some authors find that having others read and review their work as they develop it helps them in the creative process while others find external input to be frustrating and bothersome. If you find that you enjoy external input, don’t be afraid to seek it out! There are some amazing writer’s clubs, groups and forums that help provide this kind of feedback. Even if you do not want external input during the writing process, I highly recommend getting external feedback during the editing and proof reading stages. Having a fresh pair of eyes (or five) is a really important aspect of the publication process.
Method- Some writers find that pen and paper are the best way to get their ideas out on paper while others prefer to use a computer and type out their work. Some find that the speed at which they type vs that which they write can be either a good or a bad thing for their writing process. Find whatever method helps you most and go with it.
And finally, the best piece of advice I can give is try not to fit in someone else’s mold. Be your own author. Let your creative process be your own and don’t feel like it must look like anyone else’s. It’s okay if you do it differently. The most important thing is that you just do it. Find the way that works best for you and run with it. But don’t be afraid to try something new too. It’s a journey… walk it out!