January 3, 2019

Writer Flexibility: Trying New Things

Live! The Writer's Journey: Educate. Motivate. Entertain. with Jami Gold

Even though I’ve studied story structure enough to teach workshops and offer beat sheets, I still love learning new perspectives. I still read blog posts, check out Twitter threads, and pick up books about beats, plots, and story structure, hoping to take away at least one new thing.

Once we’ve written more than one story, we often learn a “writer truth”:

The processes and techniques that worked on our last story might not work on our next one.

So I figure I should fill my brain with all the options. I want to have more choices in my toolbox should my usual processes for writing and editing a story fail. The more tools at our fingertips, the better our chances of finding something that will work. *smile*

We Should Do What Works for Us

During our learning curve, we’re likely to come across advice or an instructor or mentor who implies there’s “one right way” to write, plot, draft, develop characters, edit, etc. But that’s not even remotely true.

The advice to wake early and write in the morning might work great…until our family or job situation changes. The advice to never edit as we draft might work great…until we take a few weeks off from drafting and need to get back into our story groove anyway.

What matters is whatever works for us for our current story and situation. And what works for one story might crash and burn for the next.

Flexibility Gives Us Options

I discovered this writer truth early on. My first story I wrote by the seat of my pants, but as a fanfiction story, the characters were already developed for me. For my second story, I tried plotting everything out (because I thought that was what “real” authors did). My third story, I went back to pantsing, where I’ve remained ever since.

However, even as a pantser, I’ve experienced different levels of pantsing. Sometimes I know the premise and nothing else. Sometimes I know the characters. Sometimes I have vague ideas for the major plot events.

My point is that we might have to “reinvent the wheel” somewhat for every story we tackle. So the more ways we know how to approach the problem, the better off we’ll be.

Learn All The Things!

(Learn) All The Things meme

Okay, maybe not all the things… *grin*

But my regular readers might have noticed that because I’ve been aware of this writer truth for so long, that’s shaped my attitude in the advice I offer here. Rare is the post where I don’t mention exceptions or disclaimers, nuances to keep in mind, or variations to try.

How can writers be flexible? The more we know, the more tools and techniques we can try when stuck. Click To TweetSeveral of my blog posts give choices, like learning what we need to plan more—our plot or our characters—for each story, with options and advice for each situation. I offer tons of different tools—most of which I don’t personally use—because if a tool might be helpful to some, I create it and add it to my site’s resources.

Some of my guest posters cover topics that I’ve already addressed, and that’s a good thing. Their different way of explaining issues might resonate with writers in a different way, finally helping concepts click in their mind.

Develop Your Flexibility

With all that in mind, I’m excited to be part of the Keystroke Medium podcast. Their show is geared toward helping writers through the drafting, editing, and publishing process. Much of their audience is made up of scifi/fantasy pantsers who aren’t sure how to go about writing a story.

Keystroke Medium Presents: The Writers Journey

We’re talking about:

  • What a story arc is and how do we plot one?
  • What is a beat and a beat sheet?
  • How do we use beat sheets?
  • What beat sheet would work best for a science fiction/fantasy author?

Keystroke Medium with Jami Gold

Plotting out a novel can be confusing and overwhelming, but there are tools to help. Novelist and author coach Jami Gold is here to explain how to use beat sheets to help you plot out your next novel. Click on the link to see her full list of resources.

The Keystroke Medium Podcast streams author interview events live on YouTube, and has an active Facebook community group, focused on author development and encouragement. Their new series, The Writer’s Journey, focuses on specific literary craft topics. Join in every Monday and Thursday night at 9 PM EST.

You can check out the rest of The Writer’s Journey series if you’d like to see how different authors approach their drafting process. The more we learn, the more tools and flexibility we’ll have. *smile*

Have you ever gotten stuck with your usual processes? Do you study concepts you already know just to learn them from another angle? Has that knowledge ever helped you get unstuck? Do you have any advice or insights in how to improve our writing flexibility? Do you have any favorite writing podcasts?

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[…] “Writer Flexibility: Trying New Things,” by Jami Gold […]


Yeah I’m really glad that you’re open-minded (and realistic) in acknowledging the different ways we can write well. It is such black-and-white thinking when someone says, “You must delete all adverbs and adjectives!” “Thou shalt never use figurative language again!” Or something else as extreme as that. I recall being in a writing critique group once, and while I learned a lot there, it was a bit disheartening that most of the time, people were just trying to get you to write in *their* style, believing that other styles are invalid. Some of those folks were obsessed with “economic language”, i.e. Hemingway. All due respect to Hemingway, but I don’t really fancy his writing style myself. At the time, I got really into writers like George Eliot and Charlotte Bronte, who were much more liberal in using metaphors and similes, and lots of emotional description. So those Hemingway fans were trying to convert me over to their side, and slash out my imagery and more poetic language. :/ Hmmm. To be fair, when I read one of these people’s works, I complained that her writing felt so plain (no metaphors at all), and one of the other folks loudly said, “I disagree. Writing should be plain and economical.” =_= Yeah we’re just fighting for the style we want, tbh. Thankfully there were some other folks in that critique group who were more appreciative of the Bronte/Eliot style of writing, so I didn’t feel so alone. In general, though, I find…  — Read More »


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