Friday, August 26, 2022

Finally! A Writing "How To" Book for The Rest of Us!

 "There are as many different ways of writing a book as there are writers, but we all end up with a finished book regardless of how we get there. You have to find the process that works for you." ~Joanna Penn

What a breath of fresh air Joanna Penn is! The books I've read on writing have all stressed structure, plotting, and outlining--all of which stressed me out and made me wonder what was wrong with me and why wasn't I more disciplined. She doesn't dismiss non-outliners as "pantsers." Instead of appealing to those who naturally have an outline, she reframes this kind of writing as "discovery writing." When I'm writing fiction, I often think, "Oooooh, what's going to happen next?!" Because I don't know. "Creativity is not linear," she says. Exactly. She cites other writers (Stephen King, Lee Child, Nora Roberts, to name a few) who are Discovery Writers and she shares their processes.

Joanna gives permission NOT to know the ending, not to know all the characters or events. You don't have to write in order of beginning, middle, and end. "You need to know enough to finish this novel, but you don't need to know everything before you write it." You don't have to have everything perfect before you begin.

The book is divided into 5 parts:
1. Mindset and writing.
2. How to do research, create ideas, and find what kind of writer you are (Outliner or Discovery Writer).
3. The nuts and bolts of a novel: story structure, characters, etc.
4. First draft and writing tools.
5. Editing.

Throughout the book at the end of each chapter is a resource guide of books, websites, etc. for further exploration. In addition, she has a list of questions (GREAT for journaling!) that help you take a deeper dive into your writing and your process.

When I read "That's not how my creative brain works," it made me realize that I had been carrying some subconscious baggage from my old English teachers about the "right" way to write. It's refreshing to read from an actual author that Discovery Writing is a proper, legitimate method AND used by many authors. 

 At the time I was reading, all I had was a pencil for underlining, because I can't read without also writing! Here are a few pages:

I highly recommend this book to the "That's not how my brain works" writing crowd. This book will guide you through how to write with your natural writing style and not tell you that you're doing it wrong. For those of us who wrote out required outlines after we wrote papers in English class, this book's for the rest of us!