I knew I wanted to be a novelist when I was in junior high, and being the compulsive person that I am, I went to the library and checked out about half a dozen books on how to write a novel. I wanted to learn how "real" authors write. I don't know if I just got lucky or if the library skewed its choice of titles, but every single book was written by a plotter.
The more I read, the more disheartened I became. I didn't do any of these things the authors said I had to do in order to be a "real" writer. I can't say if it was only my perception as a teenager or if it really was true, but I recall there being a tone of It Must Be Done This Way in each of those how-to books.
As you may have guessed, I'm a seat of the pants writer by nature, but at fourteen, I didn't realize there were plotters and pantsers. All I knew was the books said I had to do it their way and I didn't. But I decided that I could learn. I had my mom drive me to Target and I bought 3x5 index cards. I already had the cork board, now all I needed was plot points to write on the cards.
I struggled for weeks. I had to renew the books from the library. I struggled some more. These plotter methods sapped every last drop of joy from storytelling, and I knew if I ever wanted to write, I couldn't do it like the books said.
Even in the eighth grade I was determined (My mom called it stubborn) and I decided that I was going to do it my way. I returned the books to the library and tossed the index cards in a drawer. Maybe I'd never be a "real" writer, but at least I was going to enjoy writing again. And I did. I found the fun I'd lost trying to be a plotter.
Because of this experience as a teenager, I'm very sensitive to any author telling someone they have to write one way. Whenever someone asks me about how I do it, I always end by saying, "but you should do whatever works for you. There is no wrong way to write."
But part of me is still this impressionable fourteen-year-old girl, certain that her way is somehow wrong. As much as I love to read author blogs, I have a really hard time when they start talking about their process because I never seem to do anything the same way as another author does it.
I just sit down and write.
I'm a seat of the pants writer and slow, but my first draft is usually fairly close to the final version of my book. Yes, I have holes to plug, and yes, there's a lot of clean up to do, but I rarely write scenes that don't make it into the story.
Yet it seems inevitable that about the time I'm cruising along with my writing, I'll see a blog where the author does do a lot of cutting and rearranging and I start wondering, well, maybe I'm wrong, maybe I should be gutting my stories more. I always have to remind myself that my way works for me. Maybe I'm so slow because my subconscious is working out what scene is the right one to come next.
Or I'll find a blog where the author writes her first draft in like three weeks and then fleshes it out. I can't do that. I know I can't, but I still struggle with whether this way is the right way. But I know if I laid out my story in a barebones way, it's told and I'd have to fight to work on it because my mind would be so ready to move onto the next idea. Yet there are writers who swear by this method. It works for them.