5/5 – Even though I’m absolutely not the target audience of this book, I still learned a lot.
You may be familiar with the terms “plotter” and “pantser” floating around the writing community. If not, plotters are writers who prefer to outline their stories before starting a draft, pantsers are writers who prefer to discover their story along the way, and plantsers are somewhere in between. Those of you who have been around this blog long enough might be familiar with my neurotically overcomplicated outlines, and exhaustive editing process, from when I shared blank templates of both documents. So why then, did I read a book dedicated to the improvisation masters in the audience?
I was curious.
In each of those posts, I tried to clarify that this is just my process. I have methods that work, so feel free to try them if you want. People asked; I answered. Big Blinking Disclaimer: Results may vary. Pass go, collect your $200. I have a goldfish brain so I need to write everything down to remember a thing, and I think in loose webs of connections and pictures, so I need everything externalized in order to put it in order before I start anything. This also applies to real-life in case you hadn’t noticed from my habitual list-making. Doing it any other way sounds terrifying, but it works for TONS of people, so there’s got to be some merit here that I’m missing. Who knows, maybe I’ll try writing without an outline for my next short story, and see how it goes?
If you’re one of these mysterious discovery writers, this book is for you. Patricia McLinn discusses how bad-faith, dogmatic writing advice and industry standards constantly made her process feel inadequate, until she met others like her. She provides useful tools, tips, dos, and do nots for learning how to experiment with different models without losing her own course, and how to think critically about your writing habits to continue improving them. Part 4 is full of advice for approaching story-structure, character arcs, themes, and file organization from a top-down view, arranging the pieces in order once you have created them, rather than building from the ground up. She also includes brain-hacks to motivate yourself to write and how to avoid guilt.
As I’m slogging through my Storge and Runaways revision, I could sympathise with many of the struggles she mentioned, looking back at the story and realizing you would need to completely restructure parts of it to work properly. Even the most detailed of outlines can’t save you from developmental edits and many of her tips helped me think about my problems from a different perspective and unlock new solutions. It was fascinating to hear from a discovery writer how hostile the market is to their process, despite her huge success and dozens of published works. I want to try and make my corner of the internet inclusive and a space for discussion and sharing resources, because we all have so much to learn from each other. No matter your writing style, I highly recommend checking out this book.
You can find Patricia McLinn and her other fiction books (mostly mystery and romance genres) on her website. Thanks for reading this review! If you like my blog and want to support my writing projects, please consider donating to my Ko-Fi. Next week I’ll be sharing a recently edited excerpt from Storge. Until then, Happy Writing!