During my time reading 52 books, I read Sometimes the Magic Works – Lessons From A Writing Life (SMW) by Terry Brooks. If you’re unfamiliar with Terry Brooks, he has a fabulous series called The Shannara Series. It’s like a Lord of the Rings story with fantasy creatures and epic quests in a fictional world.
This book did several things for me. It helped me trust my process, gave me some great tips on writing, and some rules to help create a story.
My process is in daydreaming. I’m not a pantser. A pantser is someone who sits down and writes without knowing a word of the story beforehand. They put a pen to paper, or fingers to keys, and write whatever comes to mind. This typically results in an extremely rough draft that needs to be edited multiple times. Not just edited, chapters need to be moved, deleted, and rewritten.
Characters can go completely haywire and need to be given the ax. Plot holes can run rampant. There are some very successful pantsers like Stephen King.
I’m a thinker, planner, plotter.
I think through the entire story before I write it down. To date, I have not rewritten any of my drafts, characters, or plots. For example, the version of Fury you can read right now, is the exact same version I originally wrote, minus multiple edits and sentence rewrites. The characters didn’t change. The plot didn’t change. No chapters were deleted or rewritten. It is the same story.
Reading SMW, I found a familiar soul. Terry Brooks made it as a writer and made it big. If he had the same process, maybe I could do well.
Terry writes, “If an idea doesn’t stick with me for more than twenty-four hours, it probably wasn’t all that hot in the first place.”
I used this concept when it came to my ideas. Anything I’ve written has percolated in my mind for much longer than twenty-four hours. Usually, it’s several days, to months, to years. Fury was an idea that started from something completely different. When I say different, my original idea, which I plan to still write, morphed into Fury as my neurons brewed.
Once I decided to write, I had the entire movie in place. I knew where the story started, what the middle looked like, and how it ended. I knew who the characters were and where they needed to end up. This meant I ended up with a solid, concise story as soon as I started writing it.
Greed was the same way, albeit quicker. It was shorter and the characters had already presented themselves as I wrote Fury.
In reading SMW, I realized that I could do this. Terry Brooks writes like I do. I always had this image of writers being pantsers. They would sit down and write whatever came to mind. That turned me away from writing, because I hate repetition. I don’t want to write ten drafts, ten potentially different stories, before I even get to editing. I want to write one and focus on making it perfect.
That’s what Terry Brooks did with his stories. Write one draft, make it great, and move to the next. It saves time, which means more stories for everyone to read.
I read several writing books and I don’t agree with all of them. If you’re an aspiring writer, my advice is this: Research authors.
Whether it is a book like SMW, The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, articles online, or from podcasts, find authors who have a similar process that has led to success. Those will be the authors to help push you to the next level. I can’t understand how pantsers like Stephen King create stories, but I can understand how planners like Terry Brooks do.
Go out and find another writer with your process. One who is successful. One who will inspire you to continue writing.