Posted On August 17, 2011 by Print This Post

No Plotters Allowed Workshop – Allison Brennan

Introducing one of my favorite authors of all times, Allison Brennan. =) Jump in on the discussion today – Allison is giving away three books from her backlist to three randomly chosen winners. You’re not going to want to miss out on that!

Do you want to write or don’t you? If your answer is “yes, but,” then here’s a small editing tip: what you’re doing is using six letters and two words to say “no.” And that’s fine. Just don’t kid yourself as to what “yes, but” means.
– John Scalzi

No Plotters Allowed is one of my most popular workshops. I created it originally because I hated when people told me I had to write this way or that way; that I had to plot, or use the snowflake method, or create a GMC chart, or interview my hero and heroine. We all write differently, and what might work for me won’t work for you. But people who say you HAVE to write THIS WAY drive me batty. There is no one right way to create a story. There is a right way for you.

But first, you have to understand why you’re not writing.

The number one reason you are not writing is not because of writer’s block. It’s not because you plotted your book or didn’t plot your book. The number one reason you are not writing is because of fear.

You can explain it any way you want, but FEAR is the great de-motivator.

Resistance feeds on fear.

To paraphrase Steven Pressfield in his THE WAR OF ART:

Resistance is invisible, internal, insidious, impersonal. It is the enemy within. Everyone experiences resistance.

Don’t lie to yourself. Don’t make up excuses. If you want to write, write. If you don’t want to write, don’t write. Never blame anyone but yourself, because no one on this planet cares whether you are published except you.

There are a hundreds of thousands people who say they’re writing a book. Will they finish? 99% won’t. Don’t be one of the masses. And of the 1% who do finish, most won’t show it to anyone, or edit it, or do what it takes to turn a ho-hum manuscript into a sellable story.

If writing is as much a part of you as breathing, then write. If you’d rather be gardening or watching television or saving the world, by all means do it.

Do you want to write?

If the answer is “YES!” you’re in the right place. If the answer is “Yes, but…” take a deep breath, find out what’s demoralizing you, and conquer it. Or find something else to do.

“Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice. The story which results from it is apt to feel artificial and labored.”
–Stephen King

So what is plot? Here’s one definition:

plot / plŏt / n: A small piece of ground, generally used for burying dead people, including writers.

Or try these synonyms for plot on for size:

1. Intrigue
2. To brew, hatch, frame
3. To conspire; To scheme; Secret, cunning, and often unscrupulous planning to gain one’s own ends. To plot is to contrive a secret plan of a selfish and often treasonable kind. To scheme is to plan ingeniously, subtly, and often craftily for one’s own advantage: to scheme how to gain power.

Okay, plot is a lot of different things. But here’s the truth about plot when it comes to writing:

PLOT HAPPENS.

It’s what you end up with after you’ve typed THE END.

You can spend days, weeks or even months planning your story. Putting ideas down on three by five cards, rearranging them, rearranging them again… and again… and again, until you feel you have it right, and then you sit down and write. And maybe have to rearrange and rearrange and rearrange again.

You can be an organic writer and just leap into your story with both feet, with no definite plan of action other than to take a grain of an idea and expand on it as you write your story, anxious to see where your wild mind–or your characters!–takes you.

Or you can be a “Tweener.” You like a little planning; a little spontaneity.

No matter how you do it, in the end . . . you have a plot. It could be a lousy plot, a mess, disjointed, or . . . a masterpiece.

Naturally what we all want is to end up with a masterpiece, or at the very least, a story that works, a piece of fiction that will grab the reader’s attention. It doesn’t matter how you write your story. What matters is that you write.

It is good to have an end to journey toward;
but it is the journey that matters, in the end.

–Ursula K. Leguin

PLOT… WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? CHARACTER!

“Plot grows out of character. If you focus on who the people in your story are, if you sit and write about two people you know and are getting to know better day by day, something is bound to happen.”
– Anne Lamott

Simply put, the plot is what happens to the characters–they are what the book is about.

You can spend endless hours, days, weeks or even months crafting the most intricate plot, but if you populate that plot with characters who are colorless—lifeless–no one will care. You won’t care, either. What fun is it to write a story if you don’t have immense passion for your characters, and if your characters don’t have immense passion in return.

In some genres–fantasy, for instance–the world you create becomes a character, too. But that world won’t be complete if you don’t populate it with people. They’re part and parcel of the world you create.

Naturally, something has to happen to your characters to make a story. Plot “happens” by the very fact that your characters do something, and preferably doing something problematic.

Character is conflict. That is probably said in every writing classroom in the world. Your protagonist is defined by how he faces and overcomes the conflicts in the path ahead.
– Michael Connelly

Maybe you can put some spark in your story simply by spiffing up your characters.

“I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way. In some instances, the outcome is what I visualized. In most, however, it’s something I never expected… I am, after all, not just the novel’s creator but its first reader. And if I’m not able to guess with any accuracy how the damned thing is going to turn out, even with my inside knowledge of coming events, I can be pretty sure of keeping the reader in a state of page-turning anxiety. Why be such a control freak? Sooner or later every story comes out somewhere.” – Stephen King

But what do you do when you get STUCK on the way to somewhere?

You could listen to your critics who say, “You wouldn’t get stuck if you plotted in advance.”

Not true.

Everyone gets stuck, plotters and non-plotters alike. But there are many practical solutions to writer’s block that don’t involve detailed plotting.

Okay, we now know what “plot” is. Plot HAPPENS as you write your book, whether you work at it or not.

But what do you do if you get the dreaded WRITER’S BLOCK?

Well . . . you have to figure out why you’re stuck!

There are endless reasons why someone stares at the screen or piece of paper with a sick feeling in the pit of their stomach because they have absolutely no idea where to go next.

What are some of those reasons?

• Fear
• Inexperience
• Stress
• Wrote yourself into a corner
• Doubt
• No idea what should come next
• Worry that you’ll do something wrong
• Worry that you’re writing garbage
• Fear of criticism
• Fear of success
• Hate your hero
• Hate your heroine
• Love your villain
• Worried that you’re a hack
• Worried that you have no talent

There are endless reasons for writer’s block. Figuring out your reason or reasons is the first step to solving your problem(s).

I’ll be popping in and out all day to answer questions about writing, character, plot, and your excuses. I look forward to chatting!

***

RU Writers – have you ever had writer’s block? What’s your favorite excuse for not writing?

Join us tomorrow for Laura Griffin with The Devil is in the Details

***

Bio: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Allison Brennan is the
author of seventeen romantic thrillers and multiple short stories. IF I
SHOULD DIE, the third book in the Lucy Kincaid series, will be available
on November 22, 2011, followed by SILENCED on June 5, 2012. Allison was
thrilled to contribute an all-new Seven Deadly Sins novella, “Ghostly
Justice,” for a digital-released charity anthology, ENTANGLED, where all
the proceeds will be donated to breast cancer research. A former
consultant with the California State Legislature, she currently lives in
Northern California with her husband and five kids. For more information
please visit her website at allisonbrennan.com, or check out the Seven
Deadly Sins supernatural thriller series at sevendeadlysinsbooks.com.

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Discussion

60 Responses to “No Plotters Allowed Workshop – Allison Brennan”

  1. Hi Allison,

    Welcome back to RU! So nice to *see* you again. Presently, I’m in the “Tweener” camp. Love that term. It’s a new one for me.

    I started my current WIP with a road map to get me started. It’ll be fun to see what side streets the story takes.

    One of my time sucks comes from trying to find the right word or write the perfect sentence–in the first draft!! It’s driving me crazy, but I’m working using more “[???]” and moving on.

    Thanks again for visiting again!
    Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | August 17, 2011, 4:41 am
    • Hi Tracey! I’m happy to be here :) … I don’t remember I where I heard the word “tweener” but it wasn’t me :) I also heard the phrase “organic writer” years ago, before I was published, and can’t remember who I heard it from. But if someone coined it before 2003, let me know! That’s probably who I heard it from. I hate the term “pantzer” and refuse to use it.

      You’ve found a solution to your problem. I know A LOT of people who procrastinate because they edit a story to death and never get to THE END. Some people truly perfect a page before moving on (Dean Koontz) but he always DOES move on and that’s the point–if you can write and edit as you go and still finish a book in six months or less (for genre fiction) then you’re fine. But if it’s taking a year or more, then you have a problem.

      I use XXXXX in parts of my manuscript, too :)

      Posted by Allison Brennan | August 17, 2011, 9:14 am
  2. Allison: Thanks for being here today! I’m fairly new at this so I don’t think I’ve had a big problem with writer’s block but I know that I will use my edits like a shield against putting my work out there.I will polish and polish until I’ve rubbed off the finish!

    So, now I schedule my edits and I have a process and once I’m at the end of that time, it is finished.

    What is your editing process?

    Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | August 17, 2011, 5:51 am
    • Hi Robin: It sounds like you identified your weakness and have a solution. Editing a project to death can be deadly. Not because you’re tightening or cleaning, but when you’re so close to a project, you might not see the problems OR you edit out things because you think they’re repetitious or boring, when they’re in fact perfect for your reader.

      When I first started, and for my first seven or so books, I would write a fast “sloppy copy” then go through on hard copy and edit, then go into the computer and make the changes (and edit more) then do a quick polish/proof and send to my editor. I have ALWAYS done editorial revisions and always expect to, so when I get the notes from my editor, I go through the entire manuscript again, often changing things she didn’t address because I’ve made other changes.

      Now, I took a page from my friend Jim Rollins because I found it works for me. I write 5-20 pages a day (depending on where I am in the book–the beginnings are always slower.) The next morning, I edit what I wrote the day before and then write another 5-20 pages. By the time I get to THE END, I find the book just needs a quick polish, going back and filling in details I skipped, etc. When I’m on a tight deadline and because I trust my editor, I’ll send her that first clean draft because I know I’ll do revisions where I’ll clean up others.

      Sometimes, when I’m around the turning point at the end of the first act, I see that the entire beginning isn’t working and will often rewrite the first 100-150 pages at that point. The second and third acts then go much faster — in fact, it takes me twice as long to write the first 150 pages than it does for me to write the last 300 pages!

      Posted by Allison Brennan | August 17, 2011, 9:21 am
  3. Hi!

    Wrote one book where I didn’t plot. Ended up with a lot more editing than I had hoped to have… (also had to shorten the story considerably)…
    So this time I’m trying the vaguely plotting and “tween” thing to see if it makes a difference in the editing process.
    Although I do get a little impatient while plotting because I just want to, yanno, write!

    Also curious to hear about your editing process!

    Have a great day!

    Angie.

    Posted by Angie | August 17, 2011, 6:00 am
    • Hi Angie, read the above post!

      Unless you’re a religious plotter (meaning “anal” LOL) like my friend Candace Hern who writes historicals or Suzanne Brockmann who spends more time writing a hugely detailed outline than the actual book, most “plotters” have changes to their plot as they write. But the most important thing is to move forward in the story and finish it, because ANYTHING can be edited. CREATING the story is hard work, even when we love it!

      My first drafts, however, are always shorter than the final book. They clock in at between 70-80K words, and my final books are usually 100-110K words. I tend to write leaner in the first draft, but that means forgetting descriptions and sometimes action tags or transitions or whole scenes that when I’m done realize I need to include. :)

      Posted by Allison Brennan | August 17, 2011, 9:25 am
  4. Though I don’t plot, I do have an idea of where my story should go. Almost every time I’m stuck it’s because my idea didn’t work for the characters. I have to step back, and the right way will come to me.

    One other reason I like not plotting is the surprises I get as I write. If it’s a surprise to me, it’s got to be more surprising to the reader. When I read a book or watch a movie, I love surprises; the kind that feels right, even though you didn’t see it coming.

    Posted by Edie Ramer | August 17, 2011, 6:42 am
    • Hi Edie!!! That’s exactly what Stephen King says, that if he doesn’t know what’s going to come up, his readers will also be surprised. I never really know what’s going to happen to my characters, however. I know the hero and heroine will survive and the bad guy will get what’s coming to him, but sometimes I don’t even know who the villain is!

      Posted by Allison Brennan | August 17, 2011, 9:28 am
  5. Hi Allison! I took your No Plotters Allowed workshop at the DARA conference last April – it was so great. (I was the one who thanked you for giving me permission to use the word “was”)

    I suppose I’m a tweener because I do plot but it’s generally about the emotional conflict, not the events, if that makes sense. I just know the heroine is going to press the hero about why he’s afraid of blah blah but whether they’re at the top of the Ferris wheel or at a Rangers game, I don’t know yet.

    I get writer’s block when I’m in the wrong POV. As soon as I switch, things come together. Oh, and my favorite excuse for not writing is Survivor. If it’s on, I’m watching! Can’t wait for Sept 14th. :) Thanks for being here today!

    Posted by Kat Cantrell | August 17, 2011, 6:52 am
    • Hi Kat — I’m so glad you enjoyed the workshop!

      I’ve read contest entries (I judge the Golden Heart and Daphne contests) where the writer tries too hard to change every “was” to an action verb. It reads convoluted and confusing. I’ve also had entries where the writer tries to change all the “saids” to something different :/

      “Was” is not passive. It CAN be in a passive sentence, but you can’t write a book without “was” or adverbs or any of those other “watch” words. It’s all about finding the BEST word, which may be the simplest word or phrase.

      I usually know GENERALLY what’s going to happen. I have the set-up (the situation that starts the story). In the Lucy Kincaid series, I have a basic emotional story-arc so I kind of know where Sean and Lucy are going to end up. At the end of book one, they begin their relationship; at the end of book two Sean knows he loves her but Lucy can’t say it. At the end of book three … well, I don’t want to give anything away. But suffice it to say, they’re in a good place emotionally, but book four is going to tear all that apart. I have NO idea how they’re going to resolve the conflict, but it’ll be fun figuring it out!

      Posted by Allison Brennan | August 17, 2011, 9:39 am
  6. plot / plŏt / n: A small piece of ground, generally used for burying dead people, including writers.

    I am SO having this put on a t-shirt. =)

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | August 17, 2011, 6:58 am
  7. Mornin gAllison!

    Thanks so much for posting with us today!

    I have big issues with writer’s block. One is fear, yes. The other main reason for not writing is not knowing where to go next. And the one I’m finally discovering is that I’ve written something either a page or two back, or even a chapter or two back that is bringing me to an absolute standstill. I can continue writing, and do! but eventually I just plain stop, because I KNOW the story is stuck and I simply don’t know how to fix it.

    That is SO frustrating. I have one story I haven’t touched for four months.

    How do I talk myself into going forward, or figuring out what was wrong and going back?

    Writing is sometimes insanity. =)

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | August 17, 2011, 7:12 am
    • Carrie, writing is NOT easy. Too many people THINK it’s easy, but it’s as hard as brain surgery (just not as dangerous!) Some people make writing look easy, but they work hard to make it look easy :)

      I get stuck in every book, and I KNOW it’s because I went off in the wrong direction or tried to force my characters into doing something they would not otherwise do. When I get stuck and have not written anything for more than two days, I go back to the very beginning and read. I edit as I go, cleaning things up, but mostly I’m looking for where the story derailed.

      Sometimes, printing it out and reading on hard paper makes this derailment easier to find.

      Inevitably, I will find the stumbling block. I made a story decision that just doesn’t work, or made my character do something out of character, or realize that I have the wrong hero, or the wrong villain, or the story is just BORING and nothing it really happening. I am NOT afraid to delete. I’ve deleted hundreds of pages in one book. (Yes, it’s painful — and I keep the file in a separate folder in case I need anything in it — but I’ve deleted THOUSANDS of pages over 17 books and only TWICE did I go back and rescue a scene.

      Sometimes, a story just isn’t there. There’s not ENOUGH story. You might try and write it as a novella or short story. Even if you can’t sell it (now) it’s a great exercise. Sometimes, there’s too MUCH story. That’s where you need to identify your core story and get rid of all the extraneous stuff. But sometimes, the characters have no life, no conflict, are ho-hum and you don’t know how to fix it. Put it aside. Just don’t get into the rut of perpetual editing, or perpetual putting aside where you get nothing done. I had that problem — when I first got serious about writing I realized I had over 100 beginnings and no endings. I made the mental commitment to FINISH a book, no matter how bored I got with the story. Once you finish one book, you know you can do it, and you can edit it or if you know it’s garbage, start a new story. Just don’t get into bad habits.

      Posted by Allison Brennan | August 17, 2011, 9:49 am
    • Try reading it out loud onto a tape then listening back. I have found this to painfully point out the problem or problems that need addressed. I always read my ms out loud before sending it to anyone. Nothing like hearing yourself saying an awkward sentence to flush it out!

      Kathi h

      Posted by Kathi Robb Harris | August 18, 2011, 9:13 am
  8. Hi Allison,

    I guess I’m a plotter. I have an idea and see who shows up. My internal block is making sure everything else is done before I write. Getting internal permission to sit for a few hours to ‘waste’ time. What do you do to overcome the blank page and blinking cursor?

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | August 17, 2011, 7:25 am
    • It’s the mindset that writing is wasting time. You have to get over that. Does writing make you happy? Does it fulfill you or complete you as a person? Do you view it as a chore? Do you view it as a reward for good behavior (i.e. getting the laundry done.) Both are BAD. Writing should never be a dreaded chore, nor should it be a reward or treat like candy.

      If you’re SERIOUS about writing, then you need to treat your writing time as SERIOUS. Set aside X time EVERY SINGLE DAY where you write and tell yourself, “Writing makes me happy; being happy is a good thing.” Too many women serve others before their own needs, and feel guilty when they do things that make them happy. If you need to schedule the writing then do it. Schedule it like you would schedule things you HAVE to do (like errands, doctors appointments, etc.) Realize that your happiness is GUARANTEED BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES (All people have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”)

      Sometimes it’s your friends and family who diminish your dream through passive-aggressive behavior. “Isn’t it nice that Mary Jo is trying to write a book.” Do your friends and family have things they do that make them happy? Gardening? Cooking? Running? Sewing? Building train models? Personally, I don’t understand what the allure is of getting in the dirt and planting flowers that I then have to water every day only to have them die in a few months. But I know other people love it, and I’m not going to tell them they need to drop gardening and go do something *I* think they should be doing.

      YOU have to want to write. If you can’t write daily because of a day job, then put aside four hours on Saturday or Sunday that is YOUR TIME. If you have to go to Starbucks so you don’t see the laundry or the kids or the husband watching football or the chores you need to do, go to Starbucks. Put yourself in a “work” environment and WORK.

      Good luck.

      Posted by Allison Brennan | August 17, 2011, 9:57 am
  9. Terrific post. Among my writing friends, I am well known for my resistance to plotting, in fact several of my closest friends like to say cuss words like “white board” and “dry erase markers” and “plotting” to me.

    “Plot Happens.” That’s t-shirt worthy.

    :)

    Posted by Laura Hamby | August 17, 2011, 7:51 am
    • LOL Laura! I’ve actually tried different organizational things, and nothing works. The ONLY thing that I do that’s even remotely plot-related is AFTER I write the first draft, I’ll go into Scrivener and map out every scene that I’ve written and color-code it by POV and write one line about what happens in that scene. Scrivener has this cool index card function :) Then I can look at the entire book at a glance and see if I have any big holes –like too many scenes where my hero is doing nothing. It also helps when I’m talking to my editor so I can see the overall story at one time. But that’s AFTER I’m done, LOL.

      Posted by Allison Brennan | August 17, 2011, 11:27 am
      • That is exactly what I’m planning to do, which will be new for me. But writing the whole first draft longhand is new for me too. Even though there’s no “right” way, we can still pick up tricks and tips from each other. The thing is to figure out which really work for you before deciding to make them a mainstay in your process.

        Posted by PatriciaW | August 17, 2011, 2:43 pm
      • A light has just gone on in my head. I am fairly new to Scrivener and so far it is like the tail wagging the dog for me. So, basically, what I need to try is zipping through the first draft and getting the story down and then using the Scrivener tools to fine-tune it. Oh, glory be. When I think that I wrote the first two Luke books in Word and, almost on a whim, sent No 1 to an agent who loved it, I am fairly sure that my problem is getting too tied up in the software. I’m sure that Scrivener can help me be a better writer, but it seems I’ve gone at the job backwards way round. I shall now start again with Book 3 and just write. Thank you for the post and the ‘road to Damascus’ moment you gave me. Now all I need is for the agent to find an editor who likes Luke enough to take a chance on the series.

        Posted by Avril | August 21, 2011, 1:13 am
  10. Brilliant, Allison! I’m a tweener too, but I started as a pantser and moved to some light “preplanning” after getting stuck a lot.

    Thanks for the reminder that there are no good excuses if I really want to write!

    Posted by Gwen Hernandez | August 17, 2011, 7:53 am
  11. Resistance – I like that word. It perfectly describes the place I’m in right now. Doubt and fear are right up there, along with a whole lot of other writing-stoppers.

    I always have trouble writing the final scenes of a story – whether it’s the first draft or the fifteenth. I have fun with the early chapters and polish them down to the bone.

    By the time I get to the end, the first blush of romance has worn off. The hero doesn’t put the lid on the toothpaste and the heroine is on my last nerve. I am feeling a strong urge to go back and torture them some more.

    I used to think I was a fairly nice person–now I’m a hooded executioner, a grim reaper slashing a deadly scythe. Heads are definitely going to roll in this final stretch of the story. But will that be enough to satisfy readers?

    How the heck do I meet the expectations of readers who want certain things for my characters? I know if I don’t meet their expectations, the only head rolling will be mine. Not literally, but in the form of rejections.

    I’m at the stage where that sneaky little voice says, “You know, no one is forcing you to do this. If you close up shop, no one will care.” But I will.

    It’s a little spooky how the posts here at RU always seem to relate to the particular problem I’m facing the day they go up. Bizarre – and very helpful.

    Thanks so much, Allison, for writing exactly what I needed to hear today. Now I’ve got to get back to work!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | August 17, 2011, 9:24 am
    • Becke, I love that image of you as the grim reaper wielding the scythe. :)

      Steven Pressfield’s THE WAR OF ART is absolutely amazing, and I still re-read sections when I get discouraged or procrastinate. It’s so easy to walk away, but you’ll never forgive yourself. You’re not a quitter, and you don’t want to live your life as one.

      Posted by Allison Brennan | August 17, 2011, 11:33 am
  12. Hi Allison. Lots of great advice. I like how you touched on fear. I do believe this is where I’m at for a YA romance that needs a good re-write that I keep putting off. Thanks for giving a class here at RU.

    Posted by Mercy | August 17, 2011, 9:43 am
  13. LOVE. THIS. POST. Boy, I wish I’d had it five or six years ago when I started connecting with the writing community and listening to all the good advice…which completely paralyzed my writing. In my mind, I was doing everything wrong.

    Wrote a story with no plot and was intimidated by all the revision required. So the problem must have been no plot, right? Set out to learn everything I could about plotting. Started writing plot outlines and synopses, but never got around to writing the stories. Bored to tears. Now I’m somewhere in between.

    If you asked, I’d say I lean more toward plotting, but in truth, I find that I lean more away from it. I’ve taken to writing longhand, which seems to free me up creatively, and trying not to think to hard about where my characters might go more than a few scenes down the road. It’s fun and exhilirating.

    Posted by PatriciaW | August 17, 2011, 9:56 am
    • Hi Patricia:

      I have a workshop called “Breaking the Rules to Break In or Break Out.” It addresses all the so-called writing “rules” — not grammar, but when heroes and heroines “have” to meet, POV mandates, etc. Basically, one writer hears one rule by one “important” person (published author, editor, agent) and that becomes a LAW. It’s true that different agents and editors have different like and dislikes, but honestly, NOTHING is a “rule” except to write a good book. I’m glad you found a way to free your creativity, because the “rules” can definitely kill it.

      Posted by Allison Brennan | August 17, 2011, 11:51 am
  14. Hi, Allison and welcome back! I loved this post. I’m most definitely a tweener. I like to have an idea of my middle and end and then everything else is organic. I find I need to have targets for the middle and end to keep the word beast within me on track. Otherwise, I’ll wind up with 135,000 words.

    I’ve also found that my process has changed. I used to write 20 or 30 pages, edit them to death and then move on. I’ve recently discovered the joy of doing an entire crummy first draft and I am loving it. Getting through a complete draft has helped me to see the plot holes early on. It makes the subsequent drafts much easier to deal with.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | August 17, 2011, 11:16 am
    • Hi Adrienne — I think as we write and learn and finish one or more books, our process naturally changes, both because we’re better writers and because we have experience in what works and what doesn’t. I’m always willing to try something new, but it took me 14 books before I could write in a font other than courier. Sad, I know. I had this vision of what my book should “look” like as I was writing. I now adjust the font size so that I’m getting roughly the same pages as if I wrote with courier.

      I never edited as I went before, now I do — but within limits. Once I hit the midpoint, I rarely edit until I’m done with the book.

      I think every writer, no matter where they are in their career, can learn something new. I still take classes on occasion if it’s something I’m struggling with, or something I want to improve on. And sometimes, it’s not the class but a tidbit I pick up that gives me what I need to “get” something I’m struggling with. And that is worth far more than the price of a conference!

      Posted by Allison Brennan | August 17, 2011, 11:57 am
  15. Hi Allison, thanks for sharing so much!
    I’m an organic writer who was struggling to be a plotter until I read a post by you a couple of years ago which made be feel like it was okay to write the way I wanted to.
    There is nothing as exciting as suddenly discovering who my villan is or what his/her relationship is to the other characters.
    I think it was also you who commented on a question I had about a year ago about POV. I was struggling again because my characters had their own ideas about how they wanted the story told… Just when I was rolling along happily writing in the heroine’s POV – 1st person, the hero began his version in third person.
    Thank heavens I felt free enough to let this happen. I’ve had some very positive feedback on the finished product.

    thanks again :)

    Posted by kc stone | August 17, 2011, 12:11 pm
  16. Hello Allison!

    I love writing and reading romance, but all of the the supposed “rules” for romance writing drive me up the wall. I can usually tell if a contest judge has taken everything she’s learned in workshops (or as you stated…because some published author said so…) for gospel because it shows up in the comments. However, with the advent of self-publishing available, I’m hoping to read stuff by authors who aren’t afraid to push the boundaries.

    As far as writer’s block…it usually happens when I’m asking myself if my conflict/plot is sustainable throughout the entire book.

    Thanks so much for being with us on RU today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | August 17, 2011, 4:26 pm
  17. Plot happens. I’m off to go tape that to the wall in front of my laptop.

    When I don’t write it’s often because I’ve psyched myself out. Or I have writer’s PMS.

    Great post.

    Posted by Avery Flynn | August 17, 2011, 5:18 pm
  18. I loved this article. It summed up alot of things for me. I have met you a couple of times at RWA Conference. The only reason I haven’t finished my book is that I have psyched myself out of writing it. I need to get off my butt and get back to writing. Thank you so much at writing this. Have a great day!

    Posted by Amy Fendley | August 17, 2011, 6:04 pm
  19. Hi Allison,

    I’m a plotter…to a point. I map out a plot and detail the GMCs of my main characters, but I’m not married to what I’ve mapped out. As I go along, I often find the story evolves differently than I’d planned and new characters sometimes pop up and say “hello”.

    Your discussion of writer’s block really spoke to me. At times, the fear that what I’m writing isn’t what I want it to be holds me back. I’m working to get past this.
    Your list of reasons people find not to write included several of my usual cop-outs, especially fear.

    Thanks!

    Posted by Tara Kingston | August 17, 2011, 6:43 pm
  20. Hi, Allison, I wish you could come sit on our shoulders and whisper this sweet workshop day after day. Excuses are just another name for fear.

    ‘m printing out this post and will refer to it often. Thanks, Allison, and thanks to Romance University for hosting!

    Posted by Donnell | August 17, 2011, 9:00 pm
    • Hi Donnell — I need someone to whisper to me sometimes, too! We’re all stuck from time to time, me as much as anyone. It’s recognizing it and finding ways to get over it that separates the amateur from the professional, IMO.

      Posted by Allison Brennan | August 18, 2011, 11:48 am
  21. Hi Allison,

    Thanks for your great post and you’re right…in the end its fear that usually holds a person back. Are there any specific strategies you use to combat fear? Or do you still have writing-related fears at this point of your career?

    Happy writing!

    Rashda

    Posted by SpiceBites | August 17, 2011, 9:06 pm
    • Every writer has fear, no matter where they are in their career. I’m changing publishers and, after 17 books, working with a new editor. I’m terrified. I had become lazy with my last editor because I trusted her explicitly. I sent her rough drafts, and didn’t really care if there were problems because I knew I’d do revisions. Now, I’m scared that I’m going to turn in a book that is inferior, that it’s not going to be what my new editor expects from me. I’m a better writer now than I was 7 years ago, but I also expect more from my books, I’m constantly striving to make the next book better than the last, yet fear that I’ll never be able to write another book half as good as the one that came before.

      But I write through the fear because 1) I’m contracted. I have deadlines and need to meet them. 2) I talk to my writing buddies and try to figure out why I’m stuck. Sometimes it’s just personal issues that leak into my writing life; sometimes it’s story issues, or I think the story is boring, or has been done a million times. Just having someone to talk things through with is a great help.

      I also recognize that the fear will always be there. You can’t get rid of it, but you can control it.

      Pressfield said: “The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.”

      Posted by Allison Brennan | August 18, 2011, 11:56 am
  22. Allison You have made my day. Thank you.

    Kathi h

    Posted by Kathi Robb Harris | August 18, 2011, 9:24 am
  23. What an inspirational article to come my way today, when I’m looking AGAIN at the same chapter 3, not quite sure where the characters are going from here. I know it starts with a murder, a jaded detective and charismatic therapist. I know they’ll have the steamy romance, I know at the end who did the murder, and why, and that they’ll expose him. It’s just the bit in the middle I can’t seem to visualise…!

    However, this has reassured me that I *don’t* have to have everything planned in advance, and that in fact it can take the edge off my fun and love for the story. Is that what’s holding me up?!

    One thing I’m trying out, to get myself moving forward, is to write in scenes, a bit like a screenplay (I assume). I just let them run for a few 1000 words, deal with just one meeting or one POV, and I like to end on a cliffhanger or at least something intriguing. Then I move on to another scene from my mind. It may not even be chronological, though I know I’ll have to pull it together later for continuity.

    I think it can help to look at writing a longer story in steps. Perhaps I get shocked at the thought of writing A NOVEL! and can’t see the trees for the wood :).

    Posted by Clare London | August 19, 2011, 9:07 am
  24. Am I too late to post? Thanks for a great article!

    Posted by Hope Chastain | August 20, 2011, 9:25 pm

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