Today's guest Buccaneer is Chelsea Sedoti, YA author. Her debut novel, THE HUNDRED LIES OF LIZZIE LOVETT, will be published by Sourcebooks Fire in January, 2017.
Flexibility: Learning to Roll with the Punches
There's no manual for writing a book.
Sure, there are guidelines. There are books devoted to teaching the craft of writing and websites offering tips and tricks to help you along the way. There are a lot of non-writers who will earnestly share what they think the writing process should be like. (Thanks, Mom.)
But the bottom line is, there's no right or wrong way to write a book. And that how-to manual that you've heard other writers gush about? There's no guarantee it'll work for you.
No two people are exactly alike. In the same way that we all dream up drastically different stories, our methods for writing those stories are also varied.
Which brings up an oft-asked question in the writing world:
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
If you're anything like me, you've had the plotting/pantsing debate many times. I find that most writers, regardless of what side they're on, can't fathom the madness that leads their counterparts to use such crazy methods.
Plotters: "How can you write a book without knowing where the story is going?! What happens if you get to the middle and get lost? Here, let me show you my chapter-by-chapter outline and color-coded charts. Certainly you'll see why plotting makes so much more sense."
Pantsers: "I can't imagine anything more boring than knowing exactly where my book is going! All your charts and graphs ruin the magic. Don't you want to make discoveries along the way?"
While each side may be willing to passionately argue why their strategy is the one that works, the truth is that neither method is right or wrong. Every writer needs to figure out what works for them.
And occasionally that writer needs to take the method that's brought them success and disregard it entirely.
Because if there's one thing every writer probably should strive for, it's flexibility. They should know when to take a step back and admit, "This isn't working."
It's not a fun moment to have, not when you've invested so much time and energy into a book. It's painful to see that, despite knowing what needs to happen to take a book to the next level, it's somehow just not getting there.
This is the point where giving up seems really easy.
It's the point where, instead of tossing the novel in the trash and pushing it from their mind, a writer should let themselves be flexible.
Many plotters will have a moment when their story takes them in a different direction than they'd planned. No amount of plotting can account for what characters will do once they start to come to life.
Instead of fighting it, these plotters should let their novels wander down unexpected paths. Sometimes, the surprises we discover along the way lead to a far greater book than what had originally been planned.
And for all the pantsers who love the excitement of writing without a plan, they might one day find themselves with a stack of unlinked scenes and the daunting task of turning those scenes into a novel. How many books haven't been finished because, in the end, the writer doesn't know how to fit the puzzle pieces together?
Maybe, in a case like that, a pantser should adopt a plotter-like attitude. Sure, it takes some of the fun out of writing. But surely having a completed novel would more than make up for it.
Sometimes plotters need to be pantsers.
Sometimes a writer needs to be both a plotter and a pantser at once.
And every writer should keep an open mind and be flexible along the way.
After all, no one's going to read your book and think about what technique you used to write it. They're going to focus on your story and characters and the world you created. Who cares if you had to change strategies fifty times to get there?
So next time you find yourself stuck, or lost, or unsure of how to take your book from idea to reality, maybe you should ask yourself if you're being flexible.
Are you doing what's best for your book, or are you getting caught up in what you think you should be doing? Are you basing your decisions on the present moment, or what's worked for you in the past?
Maybe it's time to change your mindset.
Sometimes veering off-course is the only way to reach your destination.
About the Author:
Chelsea Sedoti fell in love with writing at a young age after discovering that making up stories was more fun than doing her school work (her teachers didn’t always appreciate this.) In an effort to avoid getting a “real” job, Chelsea explored careers as a balloon twister, filmmaker, and paranormal investigator. Eventually she realized that her true passion is writing about flawed teenagers who are also afraid of growing up. When she’s not at the computer, Chelsea spends her time exploring abandoned buildings, eating junk food at roadside diners, and trying to befriend every animal in the world. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she avoids casinos, but loves roaming the Mojave Desert. To read more about her adventures, visit chelseasedoti.com.