Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Writer's Wednesday - Doing it YOUR way!

The Pink Heart Society welcomes back Love Inspired Historicals author Linda Ford, who treats us this Writer's Wednesday to her own form of rebellion: doing it HER way!

Frank Sinatra sang it. "I'll do it my way." Every time I heard that song I thought he was either very arrogant or very privileged (i.e. spoiled). You see, I never got to do it my way. As a kid, I did it my parents' way, my teacher's way, or sometimes my friends' way. I thought for sure as an adult I would get to do it my way then I discovered how demanding an infant is. Not to mention hubbie and the law officer who says I can't drive whatever speed I jolly well feel like. No, I can never do it my way.

Then I decided I would be a writer. Part of the reason was control (Or order). At the time I had several teenagers acting out in weird and wonderful ways. (We adopted a bunch of kids. For more detail see my website and read the bio). I figured writing was something I could do MY WAY.

Problem was, I didn't know I would have to discover my way. At first, I took everything I heard as gospel truth. My first instructor said I had to write a thirty-page synopsis. Yikes. I could not do it and spent several years spinning my wheels before figuring out I didn't have to.

I took every course, read every book and tried to learn how to do it. But I tried. I really did.

There was the storyboard method. I loved that one. Pretty little sticky notes on a big piece of paper. I embraced the idea with abandon. I had a color for every possible thread—hero, heroine, their external and internal journeys, the romance, the faith journey, the mother in law. The idea of control really appealed to me. However, it did not work for me. I found myself sticking to the chart instead of listening to my inner voice. I ended up with a story that I had colored by number. It didn't sell. It never will. At least not without major surgery. I learned this method doesn't work for me. I still have a container of pretty colored sticky notes. I might use them up making notes to myself but not for writing a story.

My adventure continued. I tried the hero's journey. Learned a lot from it. Discovered character arc. Which lead me to the story arc. Which led me to ... well, the journey continues. But now I no longer sell myself whole-heartedly to the process. I look at what will work for me and what won't.

There are two distinct styles of writing/plotting bandied about among writers—the plotter who loves working from a detailed synopsis or a multi colored chart. There is the other extreme—the pantzer—she grabs an idea and without any thought to how the story falls together, she writes. Neither of these methods works for me. I have therefore created a third name for my style of writing—THE PLANNER. I know what I need to know to write a successful story. Anything more and I end up coloring by number. Any less and I race around in circles. I've taken courses where my approach drives the instructor crazy. How can I explain I don't need any more information and if I insist on sticking it in I will somehow control the story where I don't want to control it. I need to be fluid.

I don't intend to tell you the things I need to know to write my stories because I know we have individualized needs. But what I am going to give you is a list of questions that will hopefully help you analyze methods and decide if they are a good fit.

Does this method spark my creativity?
Does it make me want to tackle my story idea?
Do I sense it is what I need to make my idea grow (even if it's difficult and sounds like a lot of work)?
Do I feel like I am being backed into a corner?
Do I feel defensive or protective (make sure it isn't lazy)?
Do I feel like it is a tool that fits me?
Do I feel like this will control my story? Be careful with this question because you aren't wanting to control the story but to uncover the story. It's a subtle but very important difference.

The best thing about my discoveries is that now I can really do it my way. And my way is the best way (for me).

Some of the methods I have tried over the years and from which I've stolen bits and pieces to create my own bastardized method can be found at these sites.
Alicia's site is chock full of wonderful information. I took two of her plotting courses and learned tons.
A method called Discovering Story Magic. Great stuff.
Laurie Campbell's synopsis workshop is one that can benefit any writing style. Loved it
Karen's W plot structure is great for getting a handle on your story from start to finish. Her method adapts well to pantzers, plotters and planners. Highly recommended.
Deb makes the Hero's Journey pretty understandable. Another method that helps reveal the emotional journey of the characters through the plot. Follow the link through writing tips to her workshop notes, which she generously shares.
This is a method of plotting called the snowflake method. Some people think it's wonderful. I tried it and broke out in hives but that's because it doesn't fit MY WAY. It might suit your way to a T.
There are more but I can't remember them all.

So what is your way? Where do you fit on the scale from pantzer to planner to plotter? Any good sites to recommend?

Linda's latest release, The Road To Love, was featured in the Harlequin newsletter INSIDE ROMANCE as the "find the difference" Picture Puzzle. Visit her website at to find out more about Linda and her upcoming books!


  1. The snowflake method makes me itch too! Great links.

  2. It is the wonderful thing about the medium -- there is no right way. And of course, it is all in what works for you.
    I am in awe of people who can use certain methods, but I just have to go with what works for me, and sometimes that means just writing the thing with a vague road map.
    And the hero's journey provided inspiration once when I suddenly realised that I needed the hero and heroine to literally cross a threshold and go into a different world. It was like -- oh I need a bridge here. So sometimes for me, the results are not exactly what the writer intended...

  3. Hi Linda,

    Great post! I find that my process is constantly evolving. I'm going to check out some of those links. :-)

    Cheers, Julie

  4. There was a question on the Hero's journey elsewhere last week. It is not my thing, but I knew from reading Linda's post as I loaded it that she'd put the link to Deb Hale's take on it. I passed it on. So Linda your post was doing its job even before it was published! :-)