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Saturday, August 04, 2012

Don't Look Back

Guest Post By Melody Carlson

I’m so thankful that we’re all different, and I completely respect that writers have so many varied styles and techniques for their craft. And for that reason I feel somewhat apologetic when I talk about exactly how I write. Especially because I know my seemingly haphazard methods really do baffle some authors. Over the years, I’ve made no secret that I’m truly a seat-of-the-pants writer. It’s just the way I work. I write extremely quickly and I rarely outline—while I’m in a project I run fast and don’t look back. As a result, besides knowing that my novel will get from point A to point Z, I seldom know all the twists and turns I’ll encounter in between. It’s kind of like deciding to drive from LA to New York without planning all the stops along the way. Sounds like a good time to me!
And it’s exactly this kind of spontaneity that keeps the process of writing fun and lively for me. It’s as if I’m experiencing the story right along with my readers—and I totally love that. In fact, I would even call this technique one of the biggest reasons for my success. And I know it relates directly to my longevity (more than 20 years of professional writing) and my productivity (more than 200 books published). Yet at the same time, I know many other successful authors who would kick and scream and pull out their hair if they were forced to write like I do. Vive la différence.
            I suspect I’m just wired to be impulsive and spontaneous—probably because I’ve been like this since childhood. Seriously, I was the girl who’d leap first and look later. Need I mention that I dove from rock cliffs into mountain lakes, or swam across a crocodile infested river in Papua New Guinea? But never mind that, I’m talking about writing now. And although I’m aware that my unstructured writing techniques can seem crazy and risky to some, I do believe there are some valuable tips I can share with many novelists.
            Over the years, I’ve met so many struggling fiction writers who, while striving for perfection and excellence, cannot turn off the ‘editor inside their heads.’ Now I don’t want to undermine the importance of good editing—I completely appreciate my fine editors! However, I do want to remind writers that editing is best performed after the work of writing is completed. I would much rather see an author muddle through a story and reach the end, than to get stymied and waylaid over whether a particular scene or character or even a historical fact is quite right.
You can always go back and fix those things later. In fact, it’s much easier, not to mention much more efficient, to adjust those elements after the story is finished. Because after your tale is told, your perspective is broadened and you are far more objective and confident. Sure, you still might need to toss that first chapter. No big deal, lots of authors do that all the time. Or maybe you need to rethink a particular character or change the setting locale or even the era. But once you have a completed work, it’s so much more natural to make these changes. And besides streamlining your work, you have a finished book! How good does that feel?
So what am I saying? That every author should turn into a seat-of-the-pants writer like me? No, of course not. You still need to respect who you are and your particular writing style. However, I do challenge any of you frustrated writers to go ahead and ‘fire the editor in your head’ (or at least send that editor on sabbatical) and then I encourage you to push yourself to write a little faster and to produce a little more and to run a little harder—without looking back—until you reach the finish line. And then and only then, do you go back and edit. At the very least it will be a good exercise in letting go...or it might open the door to a more fulfilling and enjoyable writing experience for you.

Check out Melody’s writing style in her latest release…RIVER’S END

In the final story of The Inn at Shining Waters, Anna Larson's granddaughter Sarah is beginning to find her independence. But her relationship with her parents suffers as a result and she travels away from all that is familiar.

While the solace of the river calls Sarah back, surprises await upon her return. Three generations of family heartbreak and disappointments converge at Shining Waters as Sarah finds God right in the center of it all.


  1. Very enjoyable post. I'll tell you that my NaNo novel that I raced through in a month flowed SO SMOOTHLY. However, I did first have to determine at which particular word counts certain climactic actions would occur.

    Now that I'm writing historicals, it's a whole new kettle of fish. I can research all I want beforehand, but I literally have to stop all the time and determine if certain adjectives/words would be used circa 1000 AD. I think we can make our genres work with our writing styles--plotter, pantser, or whatever I am--loose plotter? Tight pantser? I'm with you, though--I love getting to know my characters as I go along, gasping right along w/my (future) readers as the characters do shocking things and the plot takes wild twists.

  2. I love this, Melody, because for me, the excitement comes when I know those points I'm going to visit. I'm becoming more of a plotter than ever before. My brain works that way. However, I still allow for strange twists and turns to happen within the writing, and it always does. My characters are forever highjacking my story. But if I don't have that outline to begin, I stall out.

    The WIP I'm on right now I'm more excited about, because I've done enough plotting to know the major components and how it comes together. I can't imagine moving ahead without that.

    It's so much fin to see how different we all are, and yet each of us gets to the same end! I love it!!

  3. Thanks for sharing your process, Melody. When I first started writing, my IE drove my crazy; I restarted one project five times but never finished. As a whim, I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2010 and fell in love.

    Now I do extensive character profiles and outlining beforehand--and tie that IE up, gag her, and stick her in a closet. Then I fast draft like a madwoman. It's so much more fun, and I actually finish.

    I know it doesn't work for everyone, but it's been a lifesaver for me :)


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