The Page a Day Writers Group

Anything’s Easy When You Know How to do It

Posted on: March 11, 2010

As a little girl, I used to get so excited when I finished a task. “Look, Dad,” I’d say. “I did it!”

My dad would reply, “Anything’s easy when you know how to do it.”

It used to annoy me. Just because you know how to do something doesn’t make it easy.

Have you ever been captive in a car with a driver who refuses to ask for directions? I used to be one of those writers who didn’t want to be bothered with a roadmap. I would click away at the keyboard, and my characters would take me away to settings and lives of my own creation. The imaginative ride was a rush, but it took forever to make everything fit into place at the revision stage.  

Claire Fadden posted a bit about story structure last week. What? You mean writers don’t have to write by the seat of the pants to be creative, effective storytellers? — The “Just let it flow and see where it takes you” school of thought brought me to the seventh revision of my first novel. As it turns out, organization is a good thing. Planning doesn’t make me weak, unimaginative or a hack. Setting up a process for getting from point A to B to C and so on gives me the freedom to create three-dimensional characters and a plot that makes sense. Plot twists come more easily when I know generally where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. Feeling my way through the dark, figuring it out as I go along, took sooo much time and caused tremendous frustration. That isn’t to say I write detailed outlines of every scene. Now I list scenes within the beginning (set up) to the first plot point (inciting incident), etc. Things tend to change along the way, but the overall plan makes the process – not easy – but so much easier.

All hail story structure!

Claire posted the storyfix.com link last week. You might also want to check out the link Ondine found which outlines the “Snowflake Method” of writing a novel http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php. Both have great how-to help and insights into story structure. Find out why it works better to Mapquest an address that to “feel your way” in unfamiliar territory when it comes to writing a novel.

A certain freedom comes from following a set of rules. Once you know you have to stop at the red lights and you can go at the green ones, you are free to travel anywhere you want!

~Trish Wilkinson

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2 Responses to "Anything’s Easy When You Know How to do It"

Great advice. I love how you brought up how it’s bs to think that if you’re not allowing the creative juice to flow and using some kind of structure, some kind of map, then it’s cheating the muse. The more I write the more I realize that creative juice/talent/muse is but a small part to being a writer. Road maps, feedback, sitting your butt in the chair, perseverance matter more. So bring on the muse and have her bring a map!

Creativity without a little structure is cheating the muse. What a great way to put it, Michelle. I’m going to have to use that (I’ll give you credit, of course). 🙂

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Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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