I can hear Frank Sinatra as I type those words. And I should have listened to him. He was right.
I’ve been reading a lot of especially good advice on how to organize your book and write lately. And some of it really sounded good to me. So good that I decided to make up sheets for scenes in my next Jazzi novel and try to create a sort of massive storyboard. C.S. Boyack wrote a great article on how he uses them. And I got so excited! I could picture in my mind how each scene would fit in a giant jigsaw puzzle of other scenes and I could move the scenes around and add scenes and who knows what else to create a brilliant flow in my book.
And the team at Story Empire have been writing great posts about how to build a Story Bible with plenty of other advice about multiple POVs, settings, and story structure: https://storyempire.com/blog/ Staci Troilo even included charts for readers to download and use.
Every single bit of advice is good. And I love learning how other writers work. And I tried…I really did…. to write out scene sheets and hit beginning hooks, inciting incidents, pinch points, and more. And it all helped me think of new scenes and ideas for Jazzi 5. Which is good. But when push came to shove, for me to “see” the book in my head, I’m sitting at my computer, writing out plot points like I’ve always done. Sigh.
It’s possible that I’m too set in my ways. It’s possible you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. (And if my friend Carl reads this, no comments!) Or it’s possible that we each find what works for us and we’re comfortable with, and we should remember that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Even though I do like to try new things once in a while.
Way back in my beginning writing days, I tried to develop my book’s characters by using the Goal/Motivation/Conflict charts. But it never really worked for me. It didn’t give me enough to “see” and “hear” my characters. Then I tried filling out an extensive questionnaire I saw online for each one. That didn’t work for me either. “I had so much information, it bogged me down. That’s when I went to a workshop given by Shirley Jump and she showed us her character wheels. Those worked for me. They gave me enough, but not too much. A friend tried them, and they failed her miserably. What works for one writer doesn’t always work for another. That’s why all a writer can do is share what she knows and what she’s stumbled on that works for her.
When a writer shares something near and dear, it’s because it’s a hard won technique or truth that she’s probably learned the hard way. But that doesn’t mean it will work for you. And what have I learned? I’ve learned to listen to writers whom I respect and to consider their advice. And to roll all that advice into something I can use by trying this and that until I find what fits. I’ve learned to push myself once in a while to try to get better, because a comfortable groove can become a rut. I’ve learned that I can admire other peoples’ prose and voice and style, but I have to stay true to myself. I’ve learned that sometimes the words come easy, and sometimes the words come hard, but I do better if I plop my fanny in a chair and write every weekday that I possibly can.
So, learn as much as you can, but trust yourself and your own voice. And happy writing!