Hello, my name is Joely and I am an INTUITIVE writer.
Two years ago, I took the Strengths for Writers class with Becca Syme and learned so much about myself. Though I honestly didn’t have enough time right then to dedicate to the class and really learning the materials. That was about when Shara took off, and I was writing like a mad person. Maybe that’s why I’m having to relearn some things now. Or at least remembering to lean into them.
I’ve studied all the plotting methods. They all make sense to me. I love to learn new things (LEARNER is my #3). But when it comes time to actually apply a plotting method to my books… I struggle.
I used to say that I could hold a book in my head. That I saw it all, and I could just dump it out. That’s still true – if I see all the book from the beginning. Sometimes I do get an entire book in a rush. I know exactly how I’m going to end the book. It’s easy to write there. But now that I’m 10+ books into Their Vampire Queen, I can’t hold all the past and future books in my head at the same time. I can’t see that far ahead. Sometimes I can’t even look that far back. I have to refer to my notes.
I don’t have a lot of notes for the future. Oh, some vague ideas, sure. Some hints that I’ve dropped to myself. Some of you in the Triune will ask questions like “What did Kevin ask for when he agreed to become second consiliarius?” And I’m like…. uh…. I don’t know.
I really don’t. I’m not being cute or secretive. I have NO IDEA what he asked for, only that it was important to him and I needed to capture that moment in the contract. When it’s time, I’ll know, and it’ll all make sense and everyone will think it’s brilliant. But all I’m actually doing is brushing away little bits of dirt and rock to reveal the story that I know is hidden underneath.
I can’t capture moments like that in a detailed 3-Act plot structure. If I waited for all that level of detail to become apparent to me, I’d NEVER finish anything.
I’m envious of the writers who can spreadsheet out an outline and follow it. Who can sprint endlessly and whip out 500 words in 20 mins, or double that. When I see the story and know exactly where I’m going, sure, I can do that. But not every sprint. Not every story. Certainly not now, this deep into Shara land. I love writers like Sarra Cannon (her HB90 class is fantastic too) who can color code out scenes by character POV. I love the idea of it. I want to do that SO BAD.
But I fail in execution.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking if I could JUST FIGURE OUT HOW TO PLOT that I would write faster. That’s a lie I tell myself when I’m feeling badly about how slowly I’m writing. I know how to plot. I know the dark moment and all the steps of the hero’s journey. The Save the Cat beats. MICE etc etc That doesn’t mean I can sit down and plot out the entire story using those guideposts. I don’t find inspiration there. I don’t find the story that way. I know those guideposts intuitively, if I trust my process. When I’m down in the dirt carefully excavating the story – I’ll find those beats. That tells me generally where to dig. But it doesn’t help me reveal the story any faster.
Instead, I tell myself if I could just get the magical formula or method that works for me, then all my worries would be over. I indulge the learner, because I do love to learn, sure. But I’m neglecting my #1 strength.
I need the time to think. I am writing in my head even if I’m not at the keyboard. I’m writing when I’m in the shower or doing the dishes or sometimes even watching television. For me, a lot of the writing process happens before I ever get to my laptop. That’s how I finally see the whole beautiful beast. That’s when I write in that glorious rush to finish.
That’s why the first 2/3 of a book can be painful for me. I’m still figuring things out. I’m still thinking. Slowly brushing away clumps of dirt to reveal the story that’s buried below. (With a toothbrush some days, painful but steady.)
Instead of leaning into my #1 strength, I’ve been beating myself up about being too slow.
Instead of giving myself time to think and brainstorm, I’ve been sitting, staring at the blank page, and grueling my way through a few painful paragraphs that seem stilted and stiff. To me, at least, it feels forced. My beta readers disagreed or I wouldn’t have released Queen Takes Venom. That story took MONTHS for me to figure out, even though it was short. There were days I celebrated getting 100 words.
Part of that was definitely impacted by other stressors (COVID, divorce), but I also wasn’t giving myself the focus time I needed to figure things out.
As Becca says, you have to look back at when you got stuck before. How did you get out? What worked?
For me, the best thing I can do is take some paper and colorful pens and just start brainstorming. Jotting notes. Letting my mind wander from thing to thing. Then I research a lot (INPUT is #2). I write some more notes. Follow another rabbit trail. Eventually, I feel the excitement building. I know it’s close. The story is right there, almost….
Until then, I have to be happy with 100-500 word count days. I have to remember the work my mind is doing. Eventually, the big word counts will come. All the threads I’ve been tangling up will suddenly fall into perfect place.
This week, I’ve started scheduling 30 mins each night to just sit and take notes and brainstorm. I haven’t seen it pay out in words yet, but I know it will. I’m getting that excitement back. I’m feeling the story just out of reach. I hear its siren call. Pretty soon, I’ll trade that toothbrush in for a bigger brush, and bigger yet, and then I’ll sit back and look in awe at what has been revealed.