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monthly blog post of the Insecure Writer's Support Group.
When I was younger I started sooo many stories but never finished them. On hindsight I think that was because I was basically copying the story ideas from the books I had read that I loved. I was a great LOTR fan, for example, so I was also writing these wandering-around-with-a-magical-object -kinda stories. Then Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea stories made an impact and sure enough I started writing enthusiastically about a priestess wandering in a dark maze below a temple. Susan Cooper’s Darkness Rising was another - and Arthurian legends made their way to my stories.
After a lot of enthusiasm at the beginning the energy just deflated after a while, and I don’t wonder it now. If the original idea was not mine, then how could I find the motivation to express my ideas in writing - where there were none. Also I did not plan the plots of the stories beforehand and so, when my motivation dwindled I had no story map to follow.
These stories certainly taught me how to write, but it was only after I started thinking and creating my completely own storylines the real motivation kicked in and I started finishing my stories.
With my own ideas, I also began to plan the plots - a bit more more than less. Perhaps because of my years of academic studies I planned rather too meticulously. And soon learned too much planning wasn’t going to work. The stories had a mind of their own, surprise characters jumped in, and I often found myself chasing them, trying to write everyone back to where I had planned them to be. And it was quite fun! I liked to be surprised just like my readers. If a story is too planned, it can be a bit boring to write. I have enough of boring in my insurance job (LOL), so I want to be entertained by the writing process.
So - I plan the main twists and turns of a plot to make it go where I want to, but stop too much planning around the middle of the intended story. Because when I reach the midpoint, a new planning session is needed, with all the surprise paths and characters that have appeared so far. I’m at the finishing stages of the second Magical Midlife Detectives -book (the first is being edited right now) and I have to say I have no idea where the heck all these strange creatures appeared in Nora’s living room one evening to propose marriage. I just kept on writing to see if there was any logic to the thing, and sure enough, it was there.
Often I find that when I let my imagination take over, the story gains a lot more depth than if I was writing from according to a meticulous plan. I know some writers plan not only chapters but paragraphs as well (so in effect writing the story 50% ready before fleshing the structure with the remaining 50%) but I fear that would not work for me.
I have to say I don’t find tough patches motivation-wise anymore. In the words of Steven King: “Amateurs just sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work” (after 12 stories I think I’m not an amateur anymore when it comes to start working on a story). I have learned to plan the plot to some extent, then just sit by the computer and start typing. Motivation to write always comes after a little while.
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