Scott Oden, bestselling author, and personal friend and mentor of mine [shameless brown-nosing], discussed his method of writing on his blog recently. His method is interesting and unique, but it works well for him, as evidenced by his excellent books [more brown-nosing, but it’s the truth]. He also encouraged others to share their methods for writing. I have decided to not clutter his blog with my own ramblings, but instead discuss how I write here. You know, when I actually do write.
I usually just start with an idea. Whether that idea is a character, a situation, or even a setting, it generally starts the same. I simply open Word and begin writing. By the time I actually sit down to write something, the idea has often been germinating in my mind for some time, possibly months or even years. So, I have a general idea of where the thing is going in my head already.
I tend to compose on the fly. I explore my idea through words. I start describing the idea in what feels the most logical manner, and just let the description flow from there. Character nuances and personalities develop as they are born on the page. If the character is one that I have been thinking of for a while, this part is much easier. Since I generally write science fiction and fantasy, I also explore the world, and build it as I go during this stage, adding details that further the story or develop the character(s) as I need them. This stage is usually a stream-of-consciousness endeavor.
I am a chronic self-editor. I know that conventional writer’s wisdom is to not edit as you compose, but I can’t seem to help myself. I correct spelling and grammar errors as soon as I see them (Damn you Word, with your squiggly, colored lines!!!), and will often re-write a sentence or paragraph several times before moving on. It’s a wonder the letters on my Backspace key are even visible anymore. This, combined with my lack of outlines, is probably my biggest enemy, and one of the main reasons that I have yet to finish anything longer than a couple of short stories. I have begun drafts for countless projects, only to be bogged down by the details and get derailed to the point of setting it aside indefinitely.
Does it work?
Well, that depends on your benchmark for success. If you measure success by completed projects, then my method is a dismal failure. But if you measure it by my enjoyment of writing, then I’d say it works fairly well. At this point in my life, I am not trying to earn money with writing. I am simply writing for my own enjoyment (and maybe a few friends who seem to think I have some talent). Again, conventional writer’s wisdom states that they are not mutually exclusive, and that one should exist with the other. But for me personally, the writing is just an adventure. I use it to explore ideas, develop characters and settings, and just entertain myself.
So there you go. The Tom Method of (not) Writing. Probably an abject lesson in “what not to do,” but there it is. What can I say? I’m no Robert E. Howard or Scott Oden or David Morrell. But I like to pretend that I am on the internet. That’s what this place is for, right?