Amber K. Bryant
My favorite place to write depends on the weather. If it’s warm, my back patio is always pleasant. I don’t have a designated writing room within the house, but the living room serves me just fine. It’s bright and airy and my family will (normally) respect my writing time. That corner of the couch, leaned back against a yellow pillow, feet up, with a cat or two pinning me in place, is my comfort space.
I’m a reformed pantser. I still consider myself a hybrid plantser, but I veer more towards plotter now more than ever. It helps my brain keep track of my thoughts and gets the words onto the page faster. Often, a vague idea or an opening line will strike, compelling me to write with no thought as to what comes next—that’s the wild and carefree pantser in me. But once the initial excitement wears off, my analytical side takes over, and I get down to the work of plotting. I think about the ending first—where I want this story to leave off—that part is the easiest. It’s filling the space between the opening image and the final one—the motivations for my characters’ actions and how this all drives the plot—that takes the most methodical work. Lately, I’ve been gravitating towards Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!, where stories are dissected into beats, or plot points to drive my own perception of how I want my stories to take form.
Once I have an outline for my story, I plot a paragraph or two for each chapter. This usually gets added to or modified during drafting. And then I write. I get the words out there and I do something that writers are not supposed to do at this stage: I revise as I write. Not a lot, but a little. I have a busy life with another career and a family, so I am not able to write full time, plus, I forget where I’m at in a story in between writing sessions. Each time I sit down to a draft, I will go back a few pages to reimmerse myself, and there’s no way I’m going to read without making changes. This doesn’t hinder me from producing regular progress on a story, so I’ve embraced it as part of my process.
Once the first draft is complete, the real fun begins! A lot of writers hate editing, so when I say I love revising and editing, I’m probably in the minority. But it’s the truth. Taking each sentence and polishing it so it shines just the way I like is my favorite part of writing. Knowing when to stop polishing so I can hand the story off to my editor or a beta reader, well… that’s a little more challenging. I normally go through a manuscript several times before letting anyone else see it. That outside viewpoint is so important, though. Self-editing can only take you so far. I like to think (and hope my editor agrees) that I am open to input.
I’ve given up on writing the perfect story. Perfection is illusionary. Even a published story will have something that, if I were to read it years later, I’d wished I’d changed. Writing is a craft, and every story is like a quilt—intricate and beautiful but inevitably with a few stitches out of place. Yet don’t we love these imperfect quilts, nonetheless?