Friday, August 25, 2006

RLH: The Epiphany

I'm an intuitive writer. Rather than "seeing" scenes in my head, like on a movie screen, I "feel" them in my gut. I am not the least bit analytical about my own writing or the novels I read. I "feel" if they work, but describing why or why not is a difficult task for me.

I learned years ago why I resist outlines, synopses, plotting, and/or over-discussing my story ideas. It's because writing, for me, is all about "the discovery." Just as a reader reads a book in order to learn what happens to the characters, I write my books to see what happens to the characters. When I work out an entire story on paper in advance of writing it, when I analyze and scrutinize, I quit wanting to write it. I get bored and restless. Hey, I now know the beginning, middle, and ending. Why bother with writing it? My imagination says, "Let's come up with a different story where we don't know how it all fits together."

For a long while, I thought this meant I was a bad plotter, but eventually I realized that wasn't so. It's just that I plot through my characters. I plot in little bursts, just enough to get me through the day. My subconscious is working way ahead of that, but I'm right here in today, enjoying the discovery.

I remember an epiphany I had a number of years ago at a writers conference. I noticed that I (a character-driven, intuitive storyteller) attended all the workshops on plotting. In the meantime, those writers who plot their books from beginning to end on little scene cards were sitting in workshops on characterization or putting more emotion into their stories. I thought we were trying to improve our craft, focusing on areas of weakness.

But then I realized something. While improving our craft may have been a side benefit, I believe we were actually trying to find an easier way to write our novels. If characterization is my strength, but writing is still so hard (which it is), then if I become better at plotting, writing will surely get easier. And I imagined that left-brained, analytical, plot-driven writer who is blessed with the ability to see her story from beginning to end thinking, "Plotting comes naturally, but writing is hard. If I can master characterization, writing will surely get easier."

The epiphany: There is no easier way to write a novel. They are written one word at a time, and those words become sentences and those sentences become paragraphs which become scenes which become chapters -- and suddenly it all becomes a book.

From then on, I began to accept who I am as a creative person. I create the way I create. You create the way you create. There isn't a right or wrong way to create a novel. It's the end result that matters.

Even after more than 50 books, I still sometimes think I must be doing it all wrong, that there must be some better and easier way to write than the way I do it. If I could just figure it out...

When that negative committee in my head starts tossing those feelings of inadequacy at me, I remember the epiphany at that writers conference. I apply the seat of my pants to the chair and my fingers to the keyboard, and I create as God created me to create.

***

Robin Lee Hatcher does her creating from her home in Idaho. Her upcoming releases include A Carol for Christmas (Zondervan, Oct 2006) and Trouble in Paradise (Steeple Hill, Feb 2007).
Web site: http://www.robinleehatcher.com/
Blog: http://robinlee.typepad.com/

9 Comments:

At 8:22 AM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

You said, "I create as God created me to create."

"Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you.." (Isaiah 44:2).

Wonderful post, Robin. Gives us some perspective on ourselves as individual writers called...and helped...by God.

Thanks.

 
At 8:55 AM, Blogger Michelle Pendergrass said...

I've not "met" you yet, Robin, and I'm sorry I haven't before now!

One of the lies I believed about myself was that because I couldn't get the "basics" of plotting down I couldn't be a writer. I had read books on the craft, attended classes, and tried to master theses "basics" (as they're so often called.)

It wasn't until a few years ago that I read Stephen King's "On Writing" that I was granted permission to throw out the outline, plotting chart and the other "basics."

Why did I need his permission to be granted? Because it seemed that every other source of influence or expertise tells us that this is how it is done. And when I couldn't do it that way, I was a failure in my mind. I think Satan perpetrated this and built it into an even greater lie, one that I've just been breaking down in the last two years: that I'm not creative.

It's amazing how not being able to complete an outline or a character sketch can snowball into a total loss of personality, but it happened.

So in reality, God used Stephen King to bring me to a place of discovery--one that echos what Kristy posted, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart..." (Jeremiah 1:5)

 
At 10:53 AM, Blogger Katy said...

One of my wonderful writing friends advised me several years ago to just close my eyes and then write what I see. So I closed my eyes.

"What did you see?" she asked. She believed I'd see a scene unfold before my eyes, like in a movie.

She was shocked when I answered, "Black."

I do hear my characters having conversations, though. The rest, I feel.

Thanks, Robin, for making me not "feel" crazy!

Katy McKenna www.fallible.com

 
At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Nicole said...

If outlines were requirements for writing--or chapter breakdowns, etc.--I would've suffered just like Michelle. The characters "create" the story for me, and they sometimes go where I never thought they would. It's not like I don't take down an occasional note to make sure I remember what I want to include, a direction, an action, but mostly it's writing at the moment when it's time. Early on the Lord gave me these words (my first book, an epic, was written in longhand): "If you pick up the pen, I'll give you the words." I love Him!

 
At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Nicole said...

If outlines were requirements for writing--or chapter breakdowns, etc.--I would've suffered just like Michelle. The characters "create" the story for me, and they sometimes go where I never thought they would. It's not like I don't take down an occasional note to make sure I remember what I want to include, a direction, an action, but mostly it's writing at the moment when it's time. Early on the Lord gave me these words (my first book, an epic, was written in longhand): "If you pick up the pen, I'll give you the words." I love Him!

 
At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Nicole said...

I'm sorry--I don't know how that happened.

 
At 4:50 PM, Blogger Carol Umberger said...

Robin said: "The epiphany: There is no easier way to write a novel."
Truer words were never said. I'm working on book #5, convinced that there has to be an easier way. Thanks for reminding me, Robin, that I create the way I create and that it's okay if it's messy. :)

Blessings.
Carol Umberger

 
At 9:21 PM, Blogger Ane Mulligan said...

It's interesting how God creates us all different in the way we write. I've tried to write without a plot. But I get stuck with no idea where my story is going.

I'm somewhere in the middle. I plot with sticky notes, not a real outline, but a "map" of sorts, and then I let my characters take it where they want.

I LOVE it when they take me into an unexpected and absolutely delightful new direction. And I've never gone back to the original direction. Those are the adventures I write for - the FUN in writing! ;o)

 
At 12:38 PM, Blogger Abigail said...

A wonderful, inspiring post, Robin (if I may call you that). Thank you!

I think I'm a cross between "types." I am able to watch the proverbial movie in my mind, but sometimes all I see is black, and I need to feel my way around the next corner by intuition. I fluctuate between plotting and not plotting, too - but in that department I'm not experienced enough to have developed a method that works for me and only me. I've done the whole detailed and complete plot thing, I've tried index cards and post-it notes...nothing worked. I think now I'm easing into something that just may work for me, but I daren't mention anything about it lest I jinx it. :P

 

Post a Comment

<< Home