Thursday, August 20, 2009

I'm Starting to See a Pattern

I've finally been writing long enough that I'm starting to notice patterns in my writing habits. Note that I didn't say I've started to develop patterns. They've likely always been there. I'm just now noticing they exist.

For example, my first draft is usually overloaded with dialogue. And to this, do I say, heck, I'll just take up screenwriting? Oh no, I do not. Probably because screenwriting is a completely different animal with its own rules of craft and I'm just starting to become good friends the fiction craft rules and they are all my brain can handle for now.

What I do instead is create a lot of backstory. Oodles of it! Piles of delicious, luxurious, how my character felt about her elbows in third grade backstory.

Problem is, backstory sucks. It's a little indulgent for both the character and the writer, not to mention super boring to read. But alas, it comes out of me. I cannot stop it.

I've considered trying to just turn off the backstory spout (as if I could even locate that precious valve in my brain). But it has spit out some interesting nuggets about my characters. Instead, I take out the backstory hatchet.

I do not know how to properly use said hatchet just yet. I don't know how much to cut vs. save vs. move. But I have the tool in my hand and I'll figure out how to use it little by little. (Hey, adverbs, are you listening? Scared, aren't you?) Anyway, I'm just glad I know that I need the backstory hatchet.

So for now, I'm just going to write how I write. My plan is to take whatever writing pattern comes and work with it. Because if I run away from it I will have nothing but a blinking cursor and a really high score on must pop words.

What are some of your writing patterns?


  1. Love the image of the "backstory spout." I think it's very necessary. They say(someone said at any rate, and I can't remember who) that if you know your charachter's backstory, then it will come out in the course of the story and be obvious to the reader without you even knowing it.

  2. Haha, in my first draft, I absolutely abuse certain words: "rather" tops the list, followed by "just," "about," and "really."

    I, too, am inexperienced with the hatchet. I'm great at line editing and okay at cutting, but only recently did any real rewriting. Even cutting is nerve-wracking enough that I almost always save the cut section in a separate document. I may never look at it again, but it still makes the cut more painless and reassures me that "I can always add it back in if I want to!"

  3. Hi Sierra,

    Welcome to my blog, thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the "backstory spout" idea.

    I think you're right that a character's background can just come out naturally in the course of the story. I'm working on that balance of creating character's backstory (I can only do it by writing - not in my head or with little lists of favorite things), yet not leaving the details in the story as a data dump. It's a delicate dance that I'm still learning the steps of, but it's a fun challenge!

  4. Hi, Lisa!

    D. D. Scott here!

    Fabulous topic!

    Here's a trick for you and your hatchet...LOL!!! I learned at a RWA Natl Conference (I think in Reno, NV) to treat your backstory like a large sheet of glass. Imagine all your backstory on that glass. Now throw that puppy on the ground and watch it shatter into a gazillion tiny slivers. You are only allowed to pick up one shard at a time and use only that one little tidbit of info every couple of pages or so.

    Using your hatchet get to take that beast and pound it against that gigantic piece of glass...then have fun discovering and using one sliver at a time.

    Sexy, Sassy, Smart Hatchet Wishes --- D. D. Scott

  5. Hi Anica,

    I use your "saved stuff" idea, too. I have a file called Extras and when I cut big chunks of text, I copy it into this document and save them there. Then if I feel like I cut too much, I know I can go back and pull something out. I only put stuff back in pretty rarely, but I'm always glad it's still there.

  6. Hi D.D.,

    Welcome to my blog! Thanks for stopping by and offering such a great suggestion. That is a really great exercise and the visual about the large sheet of glass is just perfect. I'm going to try that out this week!