Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Don't Think. Just Type

I've mentioned how I've become a fan of fast drafting. Of letting the words flow without stopping to edit. Just typing until I was finished drafting. This is how I wrote TOUCH OF DEATH, and it was my favorite novel to write. It's the book where I connected most to the characters and their story.

While drafting that book, I learned the story isn't mine to tell. I have to stop thinking, stop planning, and give my characters control to take me on their journey. With my current WIP, I got stuck after chapter one. I thought about where the story was going and I outlined the plot. Still I couldn't write. The problem? I'd over thought the story.

So I gave myself permission to stop thinking. Put my hands to the keyboard and type. How? I told my MC, Sam (I'm not allowed to call her Samantha. She doesn't like it.), to go ahead and tell her story. And she did. All day and all night. She never stopped talking. She woke me up to jot down bits of dialogue. She interrupted dinner to tell me what she was going to do next. And I loved her for that.

When was the last time you let yourself just type without over thinking? Do you tell the story or does your MC?

77 comments:

  1. I am a massive overthinker when it comes to writing stories. I'll let go for about 2-3 pages and it feels great, and then I'll start thinking, not so much about where the story is going, but things like "What's the point?", "It will not be good enough to submit", "No one is going to want to read this." Those are the kinds of things I need to get out of my head for sure!

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    1. Unpublished Life, yes, get those thoughts out of your head. Write the stories you want and need to tell. Worry about getting published later. You have to fall in love with the story and put all you have into it. Otherwise, no one else will. So no negativity or doubt. Just write.

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    2. @Unpublished Life--you may find The Artist's Way helpful. I have found the morning pages particularly helpful to curb my own negative self-talk. :)

      Shanan
      http://thebookaddictnet.blogspot.com/

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    3. I so understand how you feel. You should read my rivalry series on T.A.A.

      http://www.talkinganimaladdicts.com

      I'd also go this post on a blog I follow-

      http://institutechildrenslit.net/Writers-First-Aid-blog/2012/01/18/are-you-free/#respond

      You aren't alone, and Kelly's right, doubt will derail our projects in no time.

      Unless we're bullishly masochistic, or already attain Kelly's enviable unflappability, we're going to lose this asset sometimes for various reasons.

      So, the best I can tell you is how you feel is normal, but only you can know how to make it better, but anyone who's made fun of this problem is either a sleezebag, or is lucky to have never faced this problem, or even believe it's "real."

      Feel better,
      Taurean

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  2. My MC doesn't tell the story, and neither do I. I'm a fly on the wall, watching the events unfold as they happen. That doesn't mean I'm a fast writer, but I'm working on it!

    Great post and super advice.

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    1. Anne, I like the fly on the wall approach. :)

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  3. This is a great post, because I so need to hear someone tell me to just type! I can get very caught up in the details that should come in revision, but I find my best writing comes when I just stop worrying and start listening. Thanks!

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    1. Faith, same here. I really struggled for a while because I was thinking too much. Sometimes you have to let go and let your fingers fly across the keys.

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  4. Lady Kelly

    Heh. And welcome to the world of the Pantster!
    Which means - that's pretty much how I always write. By, um, writing :-).
    'Road like a river' came from a rogue thought while I was chopping onions for dinner. After dinner I sat down and wrote a page of the thought. The page became a two page. The two page became a Prologue. The Prologue? Heh. That became a 70,000 word story about a ferryman who gave up his boat for a truck. Jack Shadow came from a photograph I came across while web browsing. He's still making himself up as he goes along.
    'Just writing' is fun. Will it need edits later? Sure. But at least you _have_ something to edit... :-).


    The Idiot
    or
    UNSCM

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    1. Graeme, what a great point. Getting the story down is the point. Edits come later and like you said, at least you have something to edit. :)

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  5. I prefer fast drafting over any other writing style. But I go through phases where keeping the unhelpful voices out of my head is particularly difficult. I tend t fumble with my fast drafting when that occurs.

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    1. Angelia, by unhelpful do you mean negative or things that will distract you from writing?

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    2. Negative thoughts mostly. I tend to have a hard time transitioning from editing for publication back into first draftiness. The voices which work for final edits are not helpful for first drafting.

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    3. Angelia, I hear you. You need to be firm with your internal editor and let her know she'll have her time later. ;)

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  6. I'm overwhelmed with marketing my book. There just isn't enough hours in the day to do it all. Thanks for providing this opportunity to vent.

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    1. Vent whenever you need to, JoDee. Marketing is definitely tough and can be a full-time job. Good luck with it.

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  7. I've actually found myself doing this the past 2 days! I wasn't sure if I should let the story go where it was going--it could ruin the flow. But then I just stopped and let the characters talk and boy did they really want some funny shower scene.. That and a sappy heartthrob moment :)

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    1. Elizabeth, I don't even attempt to fight my characters anymore. They always win in the end anyway. :)

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  8. Fantastic, Kelly. You sound so excited! That is wonderful. It is great fun to let the characters go and tell their stories. I write a lot of my novels that way.

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    1. Karen, I am excited. I love when my characters take the lead and I can just type what they tell me. There's nothing better. :)

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  9. It's too early for me to think about this! LOL Maybe I'll ask my main character.

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  10. I'm also one who over thinks everything. Before I took the course through ICL, I could sit and write and tell myself, Oh, I can come back and fix that later. I'd get more done. Now, I freeze up. I let doubt creep in and take complete control until I give up. I wish I could let my characters take control the way I used to. Maybe one day I'll be able to get back to that.

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    1. Oh, I better add, this has nothing to do with the ICL course. I loved the courses! They're amazing! :)

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    2. Mariah, just let go and you'll get back there. You obviously have it in you if you used to write that way. :)

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  11. There's something very freeing about letting the thoughts come without that censor making you stop and edit and rethink. It's as if another part of your brain does the work while the "planner" takes a two martini lunch break. Refreshing.

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  12. I'm having the worst time overthinking my current WIP. Usually I am a fast drafter. I just let the characters lead. But now I'm involved in editing three of my novels and trying to finish my WIP. This is new territory for me. Until now, I was able to just write. Trying to juggle editing and writing is tripping me up and I'm trying to force myself to outline when that isn't how I write best. How does everyone else manage to edit and write? I try to set aside a block of time to just edit, but my characters don't always respect that! :)

    Michelle
    www.Michelle-Pickett.com

    Author of Concilium, available July 2012
    Concilium: The Departure, November 2012
    PODs, available June 2013

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    1. Michelle, do you need to edit right now? Are you on a deadline? If not, I'd let yourself right and hold off on the editing. Or if the edits are on a deadline, get to them first and try to hold off on writing (jot down ideas if they won't leave you alone, but focus on the editing). I try not to edit one project while writing another, yet I always get new ideas while I'm revising. I just write them down and let them sit until I'm truly ready to dive into the draft. I hope that helps.

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  13. Kelly,

    The last time I did this was frankly years ago, 2006 to be exact.

    When my last novel was in it's first dark period, and keep in mind this novel has been a decade long labor of love, and frustration, to put it in a G-rated way, I wrote a series of stories about a detective, they were the last things I wrote where I just "Let go" as you talk about in your post today, and I miss that like you couldn't believe.

    There is this euphoric rush and pleasure you get when you plow through something. I do miss it.

    That said, I'm still editing those stories a lot, but they're in worse shape than my novel still, and it's been 8 years since I first wrote them, and I still don't have them where they need to be, and still haven't figured out what to do about it, and that is far from satisfying.


    A big problem of mine is I make similar mistakes instead of building on what I learned. I feel like I need some way of building on mistakes I made that will ruin even the freest flowing projects I do, or everything I work on will take 10+ years to finish, and I'm not going to achieve my goals if everything takes that long, and my mortality, unlike my persistence, is not ever-lasting, which frankly adds to the problem.


    Kelly, have you always been able to to write this way? It seems to be the case at least as long as I've known you.

    Plus, you've told me that you plan things out a lot, so are you just able to forget about the very notion of editing the second you start typing?

    If so, I can't remember a recent instance of my being able to do that, but it seems less feasible the more you learn about the process.

    I feel like I'd have to have amnesia to not think about certain things.

    But I keep trying. That's all I know to do.

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    1. Taurean, no, I haven't always written this way. I started out as a panster who wrote myself into corners and had to claw my way out. Then I became a huge planner and edit as I wrote kind of writer. Only in the past six months have I been able to let go and write this way. I've written three books in that time, too. It's a great feeling. I said so many times that I'd never fast draft. I was so resistant, and now I love it. You never know until you try.

      I still plan before I start drafting, but I don't always use that plan. It's sort of a backup if I get to a point where I don't know what to write next. With my current WIP, that didn't happen. I didn't use my planning. I'm still glad I planned it though. It's like a safety net and it helped me flesh out the story in my mind.

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    2. Thanks for clarifying. I feel less intimidated. I am feeling better than I was last week about this, it's all about staying on as even a keel as I can.

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    3. I'm no superwoman, Taurean. You give me too much credit sometimes. :)

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  14. Great timing, Kelly. I think I'm overthinking on my story which is why I can't get anywhere. All morning, maybe one paragraph. So stop thinking, just let my character tell her story. Gotcha. Thanks.

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  15. I've only told one story in 1st person, and it was fun. I let that story go where it went and it was an intense story. I enjoyed it.

    Where I have trouble is going into 3rd person and creating that character journey. Because I'm not fully into the character's head as in 1st person, it's so difficult to act things out.

    I'm getting better, but I enjoy telling the stories.

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    1. Diane, what about limited third person where you stay close to the main character. It can be just like 1st person but without the use of "I".

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  16. I tried this when I started but realized there were so many issues that needed to be addressed that I then had to go through and write out a decent outline. There are, however, still scenes where the characters just talk and I love to let them.

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    1. Tasha, I plan a lot before I start drafting so I have an idea where the story is going. I usually stray from that plan because my characters take over, but I definitely need to plan or I feel almost naked.

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  17. I write an outline first, and then I give myself permission to just type.

    I tried typing without an outline this summer and I couldn't finish that particular WIP. I was telling the story when I should have handed it over to my MC.

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    1. Medeia, I'm the exact same way. I need at least an outline (usually more) before I start. Then I can let the characters stray, but I need my planning as back up.

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  18. Kelly, I honestly don,t know when was the last time I wasn't,t thinking. I have such a tendency to write a paragraph and go back to correct it. I often edit while I,m typing, and it makes it slower, I find. It's sad, because exit's really a bad habit. :( know how you feel when you say you want your MC to just take over, fill your mind! Th(at's awesome! I love it! I have done it occasionally, but it's not a habit, which it should be. I want to interview you on my boll would you mind? You have a great personality, and loads of writing tips my readers would enjoy. (They can't always listen to me talking!)

    Thanks for then advice Kelly, it's great!

    -Zemmzemm

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  19. This reminds me of what Ray Bradbury said to writers: "Don't think. Write. Relax." (These three actions in whichever sequence we prefer.) I tend to think too much. Really need to let things go and just write first.

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    1. Claudine, I do think first while I'm planning. But once I start drafting, I let go and just write.

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  20. Kelly, I like your style. This is my favorite way to write too.

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  21. This is a brilliant post. I can get too caught up in planning my stories but when I just write without worrying about how it will turn out, I get my best results.

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    1. Same here, Fi. I write so much better this way.

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  22. I agree - wonderful post. I'm just writing as my memories take me. Hopefully it will all gome together in the end!

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  23. Hi Kelly, great post. And I'm hopping over from Nicole's blog hop. Now following you. :)

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  24. I am trying to do that more. But while writing with a partner, I have to keep making excuses, making sure he knows I'll come back and change it. I need to stop doing that!

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    1. Jodi, I see how that could add a challenge to it. Tell him he can't edit either until it's finished. ;)

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  25. I had a similar epiphany yesterday. I found myself floundering in my current story, imagining all the paths my character could take while getting very little actual writing done. Finally, I decided to trust my original instincts and just finish the draft I had started and follow the story and character where they lead. Less thinking, more writing:)

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    1. Exactly, Kim! :) I'm glad it worked out for you.

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  26. I think that is the only way to write. I am a big believer in giving way to the character. There is a time for me--the writer--in the beginning and at the end, but while the story is moving along, it's the character's gig. Don't you think?

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    1. Brenda, absolutely. I don't fight the character at all. I welcome him or her to take over. I'm just there to type what they tell me to. :)

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  27. I tend to write that way but I leaned especially hard on this method during last year's NaNoWriMo. I had so many words to write that I didn't have time to overthink each one. It seems a lot easier when I just let the characters tell the story for me, even when I don't like what they have to say!

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    1. Adrianne, and since you won the yalitchat challenge, I'd say this method worked well for you. :)

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  28. I don't write that fast, but I do let my characters go. I find the best plot events come while I'm writing, much better than anything I plan in advance. And I want to be sure the plot events grow out of what the MC would do.

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    1. Marcia, I'm the same way. When I'm writing I see the events that need to come next. I sometimes go back and laugh at what I originally planned because it just didn't fit the characters. :)

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  29. More and more I'm a proponent of fast drafting. I mean, the awful stuff? I'm just going to change that anyway (whether it's now or later), and the good stuff will stay and become my shell for something better. Totally agree with you. :0)

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  30. Thanks for the reminder to cut loose Kelly. I have been stuck for a while now and am going to try this technique as soon as I finish typing this comment.

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  31. I tend to over think EVERYTHING in my life so it's hard to break that habit. If I have a beginning, middle, and end to my story already in mind, then I can usually just type it right through. However, I don't always have all three in my head when I begin a story so over thinking sometimes takes over. I have to admit the funnest stories for me to write are those where my fingers just do the walking and type. But I still do the over thinking once I start editing. Just can't be helped with this silly brain of mine!!

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    1. I used to be the same way, Allyn. This is only a recent discovery for me. I discovered this method seven months ago, and I don't plan on looking back because it works for me. Everyone is different though.

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  32. Very interesting...
    I haven't been able to write a novel-length story (anywhere between 60-200 pages) since I graduated college. Usually what I do do is just that, writing without thinking. I think as I'm writing cuz my typing is fast enough to keep up with my mind (yet I have trouble substaining a long conversation verbally).
    Funnily enough, the last novel-length story I wrote, I did so without thinking ahead too much. I just kept writing and didn't worry about rereading or touching anything up until I made it to the end. And check this: I'm a fast typer, but with classes, I didn't want to have to wait to get to a computer lab to write so I kept a notepad nearby. I ended up writing the whole story longhand because it just came easier that way. Three notepads, both sides of the paper, 244 pages over roughly a year. Translated to 182 typed pages, single spaced.
    But here's the funny thing: I was so disappointed when I finished the transcription cuz I was sure I had more than 200 pages. I'd never been able to break 200 single-spaced typed pages :-P yet all my friends are impressed that I used to be able to break 100, EASY

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  33. Jackie, my YA novels have all been around 300 pages, so maybe there's something to that. Maybe we have a comfortable length when we right. That's interesting and I never thought about it before you brought it up. I'm very impressed you wrote that all longhand though. Wow!

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  34. I firmly believe in just letting the words flow; a process I've defended since school when I had to make up my outlines after the fact. They speak through me, and I can't plan that.

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    1. Shannon, the funny thing is I DO plan, but I don't end up using it. I write about 20 pages of planning and then toss it. But I have to do that in order to get the characters and story in my head before I fast draft. People think I'm crazy for spending all that time planning, but it works for me, so I do it.

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  35. yes it did happen when I was writing a story for kids magazine.and I enjoyed a lot because the words just flowed out themselves and it didn't require any editing!

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    1. Wow, no editing? I've never done that well the first time. Good for you.

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  36. HI Kelly. Hope you don't mind i referenced your post for my fun fact Friday.

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    1. Not at all. In fact, I appreciate it. :)

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