Authors have their own unique ways to get their writing done. Some have called this the pantser versus plotter methodology. Meaning some fly by the seats of their pants (pantser) and don’t have any outline. The plotter creates outlines with varying degrees of detail. To be honest, I don’t think this really describes the full range as a lot of writers have only basic outlines, but having one at all would put them in the “plotter” category.
For example, I’ve gotten into the habit of writing detailed outlines while working as a PhD student. Such outlines are vital for science writing. While I used to “pants” it during my secondary education, once I hit university – I solidly became a “plotter.” My plotting tendencies have gotten more intense, but I’ve got some tidbits that I’ll share for those wanting to have a go at writing professionally. It’s not my exact routine, but four writing choices I stick to. For those looking for a new writing routine, I’ll post a list next Monday.
1. I write every day.
No ifs ands or buts – every single day. I’m big into planners. If you follow my Twitter, you’ll know well of my love. On my daily schedule, I have at least an hour of writing each week day. On weekends where I don’t have a large project or funding application due, I aim for upwards of five hours.
I don’t believe in writing only when your “muse” comes around. Sure, if a muse pops by – write that shit down, but don’t wait for the mood to hit you to act on the idea.
2. I know what gets my writing juices flowing.
Again, if you follow me on Twitter, this isn’t a shock. Music gets me going. While I’m rather selective about my selections, I have learned what songs get me into what sorts of moods. A muse isn’t divine inspiration. It’s a mood. Whether it’s the right routine, the right jam, or the right sitting position, there’s always something you can take note of to manipulate yourself into the right frame of mind for writing.
My work in progress (WIP) has a working title of Gatekeeper, and my Youtube has a playlist associated with the particular mood I need to write. As I continue through various plot points, I’ll alter the list to reflect the mood I want to show. For “pantsers,” this might be problematic. If you don’t know where you’re going until you’ve gotten there, having a music list is fine so long as you realize how it will guide your story.
3. I edit as I go.
This is a bad habit. My editors and my publisher want me to stop, and I’m trying, but it’s how I work right now, so I thought I’d be honest here. Being a perfectionist, I sometimes get caught up on sentence phrasing. Maybe a piece of dialogue doesn’t flow just the right way, and I get anxious until I find out how to get it right. This is bad. Doing this results in me being stuck on the same few words or paragraphs for days.
Luckily, I’m doing better on my Warlock of Rochester series. It’s mainly because I know those characters extremely well and trust the editors I work with to have my back. My unpublished series are a bit more difficult to deal with in that regard. Fingers crossed I’ll break this habit before my adult science fiction series goes to edits.
4. I outline extensively, but I’m okay if the story ends up flowing differently.
Outlines are great. They give you goals, but at the same time, if you become obsessive with sticking to your outline, you might miss an opportunity to improve the story. At times, when you’re looking at the big picture, you miss the nuances that make stories great. That’s not to say throw out the outline. Just – it’s okay if you realize something you planned doesn’t make sense because if you notice it, your readers likely will too.
If writing is a hobby, don’t be afraid to treat it like one. If you want to go professional, but my way doesn’t work for you, that’s fine. We all have our own routes, and I’m just getting started. Sure, my has worked, but so have thousands of others. Figure out how you work, and the book will come.