Fill a room full of writers and ask them how they approach writing and you’ll get lots of different answers. Everyone has a unique way of how they write and come up with their ideas. Some may have to plot out every single detail, while others come up with it as they go. There’s no right or wrong way about how we get the words written and books finished.
But sometimes we need to try new ways to approach our writing. Back in the early days of my writing, I wouldn’t plot very much at all. I would sit down and write whatever popped into my head. And as you guessed, I never completed those manuscripts. Once I became serious about actually finishing a book, I decided that I needed a combination of both. I need to know the highlights of my road map, but also leave myself room to explore different ideas while I’m writing.
I’m currently working on my third and fourth books, and I found myself trying to come up with an extensive plotting outline and wasn’t happy with anything that I come up with. After wrestling with it for a couple days, I finally realized that I was trying to force something that I thought would help, but it only hindered me.
I’ve always been a note taker and making lists is one of my favorite things to do. I’ve created my own spreadsheets, used other people’s software programs, Word docs, and notebooks to come up with and organize plot ideas. But for whatever reason, they haven’t clicked with me. They get the job done, but it’s a struggle.
A couple of months ago, I bought a marker board and set it up on my desk. I can jot down an idea, erase it if it doesn’t work, and then write again. I can switch up the order of the ideas without marking up lots of paper. I don’t have to type, delete, and feel like I’m getting nowhere. Somehow, it clicked for me and unlocked creativity where I’ve felt restrained in the past.
The more we write, the more we improve. Our writing changes as we change. We need to be open to new ideas or ways of approaching our writing. If something isn’t working for you, try someone else’s idea. Maybe this marker board tip will help you and perhaps it won’t. And that’s okay. You have to find what works best for you and do it. That’s the only way you will get those words on the screen and a completed book in your hands.
Erin R. Howard is a developmental editor, fantasy author of The Kalila Chronicles, and has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing/English from Southern New Hampshire University.
When she’s not writing, Erin enjoys spending time with her family, fueling her craft addictions, and teaching writing workshops.
Erin is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the KenTen Writers Group. She resides in Western Kentucky with her husband and three children.
You can find more about Erin and her books on her website: www.erinrhoward.com