How do we write books? How do we tell our stories, whether it’s a novel, a memoir, a screenplay?
I work with new writers almost every day, whether as students, contest entrants, or clients, so I get asked about “process” all the time. I’ve learned a whole bunch about how people write over the years and I’ve discovered two things:
1. Everyone has a process.
2. Any process can be tweaked.
My best suggestion for any new writer is to write. A lot. About anything. Don’t worry about getting it right or perfect. It doesn’t have to make sense. Just write. Learn your own process, even though it may change over time.
Maybe you know exactly what your story is about before you start. Or, you invent it as you go along. Most of us land somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, with an idea of what we’re writing but allowing some inventive creativity as it flows from our fingers.
Any way you write is okay. Really. Allow yourself to find your path.
Then, take a deep breath. Take two or three more. Now’s when the hard work begins.
Now that you understand your “writing self” better, you start writing for a reason, with purpose and intent. The learning never stops – even after thirty-two years in this crazy business, I still learn from almost everyone I teach. But now you can apply the lessons you’ve learned to make your writing better.
Most people write to create something in particular – a novel, a screenplay, a poem – so, allowing for your process, you might first create characters. Or you might figure out a plot. You may see scenes or hear voices in your head that tell you what to write down. All of these can be good and, in fact, can actually be great.
Eventually (probably right after the first draft), you’ll need to know how to take all those amazing ideas chasing themselves around in your mind, and make them into a real story.
That’s when you need things like structure and point of view and characterization. And that’s what this series is about - how, once you’ve found your own process, you can make a Creative Tool Box, full of writing information that will guide you in the right direction, to make your stories as good as they can be.
We’ll fill our tool box with ways to create full-blown characters, how to structure stories, how to use point of view and description and dialogue, and many more. We’ll not only learn HOW to use a tool, we’ll learn WHY and WHEN we need it as opposed to a different one.
I’ll include lots of great resources from lots of great writers and teachers, most of whom I’ve learned a lot from myself. I suggest you take as many classes from these brilliant people as you can.
In fact, the more you learn your craft, the better you’ll be.
So, let’s get crackin’!
I wish to express gratitude to the giants whose shoulders I stand on, from whom I learned the craft of writing. I would list every one, if it were only possible.
A teacher of memoir, beginning and advanced creative fiction writing, and screenwriting at Louisiana State University in Shreveport for over twelve years, she also teaches online for Margie Lawson at www.margielawson.com. Sally is a free-lance editor and book coach, with many of her students and clients becoming successful, award-winning authors. You can find her at www.sallyhamer.blogspot.com or on Twitter @sarahsallyhamer.