One Word at a Time


When asked, ‘How do you write?’ I invariably answer, ‘one word at a time.’ ~ Stephen King

The King has spoken and it is true.

Long ago, I discovered this myself by accident. For days I wanted to write another chapter in a particular story of mine, spinning words and phrases and scenarios in my head. . . and I still didn’t feel it was even close to acceptable.

But when I started to tap on the keys of my iPad, the words flowed out from nowhere, creating a conflict here, murmuring dialogues there and making a fight scene in the middle of it all.

That’s when I believed The King.

Some writers out there make an outline before writing their craft, and I admire these creative people! I’ve always told myself I will. There were times I did, but in my actual writing, I find that I didn’t usually follow it, rendering it useless. So I gave up on making outlines and just write–for a time.

These days, though, I prefer to combine an assortment of methods that I learned from the writing workshops I joined, and from numerous articles on plotting novels. One of these which I find very useful is from Evernote’s blog, entitled, 12 Creative Writing Templates for Planning Your Novel.

I say a combination of methods because I realized not only one method works at any specific time or story. So, there is a time I would create a blurb first, then proceed to write down scenes or chapters until the end–or not. At times I would jot down dialogues and form them into a chapter, and thus, create a working outline. Or divide my story into three acts and put down “headlights” on each.

Almost always, I “brew” a full story in my head, that is, stories with a beginning and an ending. I may lack directional outlines, but I have plots in my head. Some already have characters, dialogues, conflicts; some do not. I let them braise and ferment inside my mind until I visualize the ending, jotting down dialogues and scenes as I envision them, like in a movie. I take down notes, scribble reminders to myself about a particular story. Stories without satisfactory endings yet but with starting dialogues, scenes and sometimes a blurb, I write in notebooks and tag them as WIP.  Then, whenever I have a stroke of inspiration, or a “eureka” moment, I go back to them, either adding up scenes or coming up with a good enough ending.

What I’m saying is, I’m neither a plotter (plans out novel before writing) nor a pantser (flies by seat of pants, or never plans or plans very little before writing). I’m both, and I’m neither, depending on the story I have in mind, and many other things, like the inclination to write, the timing of writing, and outside factors like adulting. (I’m not a very good model to follow, so don’t. Haha)

But one thing’s for sure: once I sit down and write (tap) on, the characters, the conflict, the twists come alive–outline or no outline.

Because I get what Stephen King said. You cannot write a story in and with your mind alone. You have to move: pick up a pen, grasp a keyboard, and write/tap on. You have to make the effort to put in a word, then another, and another, until you’ve got yourself a chapter, and chapters, until, voila!, you reach the end of the novel.

Unless, of course, the dreaded writer’s block looms its ugly head from time to time. But that’s for another article. ?

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