I’ve been writing forever—I love nothing better than losing myself in a fantasy, my own or someone else’s. It wasn’t until high school, though, that I started entertaining the idea of someday trying to be a published author. Once I decided I wanted to be better at writing, I started accumulating books on craft.
I don’t know if you’ve spent much time delving through books on how to write fiction, but they mostly all focus on how to correctly plot your novel before you get started writing. For the longest time, I studiously spent hours making timelines and outlines and character profiles. I cut out photos of people I thought my characters resembled, outfits they would wear, houses where they’d live. I made thick binders full of research for the novel in my head…and by the time I finished all the required steps, I was so sick of the characters and their backgrounds that I couldn’t bring myself to even think about writing about them.
Still, it’s what I knew to do, so I persevered until finally I had a story fresh in my mind, one I knew I needed to write. I sat down to begin all the prep, but the first page came to me so clearly that I decided to go ahead and write it before I got busy with all my planning. The pages just came, one after the other. Before I realized what happened, I had a novel. A full, complete novel.
I felt like a rebel. Here I’d managed to write a novel and I hadn’t done anything the craft books I read said were absolute musts. And it was pretty good. Sure, it needed some editing, but it had good bones and a plot that I, at least, found interesting. From then on, I put my craft books on the shelf and treated them as reference books, digging in when I needed help with a particular thing. No longer did they control how I approached writing.
That’s the most valuable lesson I’ve learned as a writer—craft books are excellent resources, but you can’t let anyone tell you how things *must* be done. You have to find what works for you—what helps to unleash your creativity, not squash it. Maybe you’ll find that plotting frees you. If it does, run with it. Or maybe you’ll find, like I did, that what you really need to do is just sit down and write.
Elizabeth Maddrey began writing stories as soon as she could form the letters properly and has never looked back. Though her practical nature and love of math and organization steered her into computer science for college and graduate school, she has always had one or more stories in progress to occupy her free time. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth is a voracious consumer of books and has mastered the art of reading while undertaking just about any other activity. She loves to write about Christians who struggle through their lives, dealing with sin and receiving God’s grace.
Elizabeth lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with her husband and their two incredibly active little boys. She invites you to interact with her at her website www.ElizabethMaddrey.com or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ElizabethMaddrey