Monday, February 21, 2011

Do You Need a System?

 Is there a method to your madness? Writing is one of those things we do in solitary most of the time, but that doesn't mean you don't have support systems and that you don't use some sort of system to create, or at least edit. 

A friend of mine who is a great writer, published many articles, a speaker, an English expert, has been writing fiction. She asked if there was a way to keep things straight--character aspects, continuity in the story. How do you keep it all straight and find the details? Let me say that there is probably a system or method for every writer. You eventually find a system that works for you. I just wanted to list a few ways, resources to put a story together that many authors have used.

1. Carolyn Greene has been around a few years and has a 3-ring notebook system that is easy to assemble and have handy as you write. You can check out her system here:

2. Some people use spreadsheets but I just could never do that. But if you want a system designed by a real computer genius, then you need to check out Randall Ingermanson. With his doctorate and ability to design systems you would think he'd talk way over most of our heads. But no. He also has the unique gift of being able to make it palatable to us common folk. You will love his Snowflake System and also relate to his distinctions of levels in writing--freshmen, sophs, juniors, seniors, grads. Well, there is a lot to explore with his blog and various pages. He's a great teacher. 

(All of his products are at the top of his page.)
One published writer I know uses her closet door and puts various Post It (TM) notes all over it to find her story.  Some have made this more formal and have a plot board
 Check those out:

Camy Tang has long given out advice on aspects of fiction writing on her Story Sensei Blog.
 I love Debra Dixon's book, Goal, Motivation, Conflict:The Building Blocks of Good Fiction. Most simple and excellent. For $20.00 you can have a basic lesson and a grid of how to build a story.

The main advice I have for writers trying to find their way is to read, read, read (especially the kinds of books you wish to write.) Then, lock into one method to get your story out. You might need everything laid out (an outline?) first before writing or go by the seat of your pants until you realize you need to lay down some patterns. Everyone is different and needs a way to keep putting the words down. Each thing is a building block to fit the story together. Whatever system you use, just make sure the system doesn't overwhelm your flow and getting the story down. I have a friend who just realized that she needs to stop editing as she goes. She can fix anything but a blank page and she needs to get her stories down. (Shirley Jump says this all the time, too.)

~Crystal Laine Miller


Story and Logic Media Group said...

I would love to have a system. But right now looking for the perfect system has me blocked.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Crystal -

I've tried numerous systems, but they're too confining for me.

I call myself a SOTP writer, but I do plot aspects of the story and characters in my head. I usually have a beginning and end in mind, but no clue what comes in between.

Susan :)