Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Development

On Being a Published Writer
A to Z Blogging 2011
April 4, 2012
Day 4

Welcome to the 2012 A to Z Blogging Challenge. This year I’m focusing on things I’ve learned, observed and experienced in the nine years I’ve been published. If you’re a reader, I hope to offer an inside glimpse into the writer’s world. If you’re new to writing, I hope I can provide an insight or two. If you’re an established writer, maybe you’ll see similarities to your experience. Whatever path you walk, I welcome you to mine and hope you’ll enjoy the 2012 A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of my computer is a file labeled “hints and tips” - or something like that. It contains copies of all those sundry things that circulated back in the day when I was a newbie. In those times, it was all on Yahoo groups. These days, it’s all on blogs, which is better because of the search engines.

As a fledgling professional writer, I worried about being a One-Book-Wonder. What if I couldn’t develop another story? HOW did I develop another story? I looked at all the information and listened to the din of voices and felt beyond lost.

Volger’s twelve steps to a blockbuster. The conflict box. Conflict worksheets. Plot charts. Plot workbooks. Plot grids. Plot storyboards. Character information pages. World building worksheets.

It’s a miracle I didn’t give up. I’m sure many have been overwhelmed by the din, which is a shame and a disservice to those individuals, our sisters and brothers in this creative passion.

While things like plot worksheets and how-to articles are intended to be helpful, none should be taken as a writer’s personal Bible. That’s something each writer has to develop for his/her own self. Or not.

Take a deep breath here.

As a lifelong reader, I already knew everything contained in the above-mentioned writing tools. But as a newbie, I was slow to realize I knew it. I never dissected the books I loved best for the technical reasons they were so good. I never even thought about the "why." It was all about the story, and that’s the way it should be for the reader.

When I reached the point where I needed to develop the next story, and the next, I discovered the only way I can do it is from my gut. I did try to follow a plot workbook for a while, honest I did, but when I started to write the prose, the characters refused to follow the form. I felt guilty. Why couldn’t I follow a simple W-plot outline? Well, I finally (slowly) figured it out.

Because I didn’t create it for myself, that’s why. And as for the characters taking a sudden left turn at chapter five, did that make me a plotter or a pantser? Yes, it did. It made me both, and that, in my humble opinion, makes for a better writer. Never be unwilling to abandon your original idea for the current story and run with your characters.

Development takes as many individual forms as there are writers. Don’t be afraid to try all the help aids or to abandon them. (You can use any search engine and find the ones I mention.) You might write six stories straight from your gut and then need to fall back on one of the help aids for number seven. There is no right or wrong, only what works for you with each individual story. You may well find it's different every time. It is for me.

Whether you use one simple descriptive word for each chapter (I use “boink” for the first love scene which has occasionally taken a lot of pages to get from foreplay to afterglow), or a detailed outline, don’t shy away from the conscious thought process of development.

The more you practice your craft, the easier it becomes to develop the next story. A line of dialogue in a movie can trigger an entire plot. A picture on the Internet can inspire a setting. Make it a conscious process and pretty soon it's second nature and unconscious. It will become a part of who you are and you'll find inspiration at every turn.

Take that inspiration and follow your instincts. Let the process become as unique to you as your voice. Allow the process to feed your creative juices. You have the best of both worlds. You are the writer and the first reader of the story. Enjoy it!

KC Kendricks
website at:
mailing list at:


Kyra Lennon said...

This is a super post! I have often got caught up in the idea that I am not doing it "right." The truth is, if it feels right, it's probably right. It's okay to follow a workbook, but not to the point where it stifles your own creativity.

Elizabeth Towns said...

I have had this advice many times, and I believe it. Interesting post.

Sarah Pearson said...

What a fantastic post. I'm not a published writer yet, but I'm constantly learning new things. It took me quite a while to realise that just because I wasn't doing things the way other people were, didn't mean I was automatically doing them 'wrong'.