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What does writing look like?

There are a plethora of books written on the subject of writing. I have read at least a dozen and countless blog posts. From a few I took some good ideas. From a few I thought, how can I possibly do that? Am I a writer if my process doesn't look anything like what others articulate?

The problem with books, blog posts and, even courses, about "the writing process" is that the author discussing or teaching the process, is teaching their process. They are likely pitching a publishable step by step method. If that works for you - great but for some of us writing is not able to be organized into 12 easy steps or a 30 day challenge.

The truth is the that the craft of writing looks different depending on which person is behind the keyboard. The only process that matters is the one that gets you behind the keyboard or to put pen to paper.

For years I attempted to plot my stories from beginning to end. There are very famous authors (Stephen King and Danielle Steele) who use this method. I have some BEAUTIFUL outlines! Unfortunately I seem incapable of sticking to my outline. Inevitably one of my characters will adamantly refuse to abide by their part. So, I do basic plotting. I know what the start, basic themes and the likely ending of my story will be. That's it - it leaves me the freedom I need to listen to my characters.

Instead I write the scene currently in my head and generally have three stories going at one time. I find that eventually I focus on just one and will finish it off before returning to the others. I also keep what I call my "vault." It is very basic descriptions of stories that have come to me that I do not have time to focus on. If a scene from a new story refuses to leave me alone I will jot it down quickly (with no editing) before returning to other work. The first scene I wrote For His Forgotten Duchess was in the middle and didn't involve my heroine. At that point I could not have told you what story it belonged to or that anything would ever come from it but those characters simply refused to stop chattering about in my head.

My process is messy and erratic and no publisher in their right mind would want it outlined in book format for others to try to copy. Still, it is mine and has resulted in finished works. I still read books on the craft of writing but I am much more willing to take what I think will work for me and leave everything else for someone else. Those parts may work well for others and that is great because authors should embrace what works for them. Any writing is better than a blank page after all!

Photo Credit: Charles Schulz

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