The Secret Reason Every Author Approaches Writing Differently

How do you, as a writer, define "fun"?

How do you, as a writer, define “fun”?

Today’s post is a reflection on how creative writing needs to be fun, and why that matters.

Despite the self-doubt, despite the comparisons we always make between our work and the fabulous books we grew up reading, despite the stress of deadlines and writer’s block, at core, writing needs to be fun.

I really think this is a “hidden” reason why all authors have a different writing process. Sure, people talk about how each genre is different. How everyone has a different personality and writes for different reasons. They discuss how each writer’s style is different.

I’ve even written a post about how style influences your writing process.

It’s less common to hear someone say that everyone writes differently because we define “fun,” “enjoyment,” and “fulfillment” in different ways. But this is true.

I WRITE BECAUSE IT’S FUN.

That’s neither profound nor unusual, but it’s a basic and important fact.

Like all authors, I write fiction because writing fiction is fun for me. And I approach writing in a way that maximizes the “fun” factor amidst all the drudgery involved.

I don’t use outlines because I have never thought outlines are fun. I had to outline far, far too many research papers in my Master’s and Doctoral programs that I had no interest in writing to connect outlines with anything but busy work.

Outlining fiction on a regular basis would make me sick to my stomach. It would take me back to that “work” place that I write fiction to get away from.

Outlining fiction would also kill the greatest enjoyment I get from writing a first draft: the thrill of being surprised by my characters when they do something awesome, something I had no idea was coming.

If I outlined, I would know what was coming. That’s not nearly as much fun for me.

“FUN” MEANS SOMETHING DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE.

“Fun” is a very subjective term.

I’m an introvert, and I notice that every time I go out with a group, I tend to fade into the background, keep relatively quiet, and soak in the environment. I’ll have a conversation with one or two people at a time and get to know them. That’s enjoyable to me.

Every time–EVERY time–some extrovert among my friends will come up and try to get me out on the dance floor, convinced that I’m not having fun. The dancing, the joking, the extravagant displays: that’s how extroverts define fun, and sometimes they don’t understand that you can have fun just sitting back, observing, and forging a personal connection with a small group.

Observing is a BLAST for me. A simple conversation with an acquaintance is fun to me. It feeds my writer’s soul. It gets me thinking about humanity and about life, about who we are and why we’re here.

Dancing, putting myself out there, making myself the center of attention: that’s the opposite of fun for me. My idea of fun is boredom for an extrovert. An extrovert’s idea of fun is terror for me.

HOW THIS AFFECTS WRITING

Sure, writers tend to be introvert-heavy as a group, but even among introverts, “fun” is a diverse concept and difficult to define.

It means something different to all of us, and that includes where writing is concerned.

Writing fiction involves so many things:

  • Crafting a story, which might even involve world-building
  • Problem solving and puzzle solving: these are huge factors in crafting a story
  • Adventures: the joys of figuring out what’s going on with your characters, of discovering an unexpected connection between characters or events in your plot
  • Playing with language and being experimental with words
  • Creating and getting to know your characters: giving them histories, dreams, futures
  • Living vicariously through your characters

Every writer will enjoy these different aspects to different degrees. Every writer, subconsciously, writes to maximize the impact of his or her favorite things about writing.

We emphasize in our individual writing processes what about writing is “fun” for us. And that’s a huge factor in determining how we write, in explaining why we all write in a different way.

So, what do you think about this? What are your favorite things about writing? How do you emphasize those things in your approach? Please weigh in below if you feel so inclined. What a cool conversation to get going!

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to follow my blog by email. You can sign up at the top right of the page, so you don’t miss future articles.

Also, I’d invite you to take advantage of an introductory sale for my writer’s handbook, “Writing for You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction.” It released 7/31, and the ebook version is available from amazon for only $2.99 through 8/6.

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30 responses to “The Secret Reason Every Author Approaches Writing Differently

  1. My favorite part of writing is coming up with great foreshadowing that doesn’t give away the ending. I don’t always think of the foreshadowing bits ahead of time, but will go back and add them as necessary. For me, this is the problem and puzzle solving you wrote about: How to tell the reader everything they need to know to understand the ending and find it believable, yet not see it coming.

    • I do the same thing: I add hints and things after the fact (mainly because when I’m writing a first draft I don’t know where things are headed). I hadn’t thought of the fun factor there but it really is a blast to know what’s coming and realize i can set up for it during editing. πŸ™‚ It is definitely a great way to get creative.

  2. I love to live vicariously through my characters. They are often braver than I am in most situations. I also love doing dialogue and really getting to know my characters.

    • I feel that dialogue is one of my strengths too! And I also, most definitely, live vicariously through my characters. They tend to be braver than me, like you mention, and also to think of other people more than I do. They are, in a lot of ways, representative of the person I am trying to become.

  3. My favourite quote on writing is this one:
    “Your motivation is your characters getting to live out their lives. Without you they are just ghostly shells of their potential waiting in limbo for eternity because you’re the only person that can write them the way you see them.”

    And that is what is the most fun in writing for me, creating characters that eventually feel like they have existed in my world forever and give them a chance to live out their lives, play out their stories…

    • That’s a fantastic quote and great point. I LOVE developing and getting to know my characters. There’s a piece of me in all of them and I think of them almost as though they were real people. (Fortunately, I don’t grieve them like real people or I would be a real mess, haha!)

  4. Definitely a writer for fun. I just enjoy creating the worlds and flushing out characters. The way my characters evolve with little conscious effort on my part makes the entire process exciting. The sense of accomplishment when I finish writing a book is pretty sweet too.

  5. I read a writing book where the teacher had her students go watch some ballerina’s stretch and get ready for their lesson. The writing students watched the ballerina’s jump around and play and giggle, then their conclusion was that writing needed to be more ‘fun.’

    And, I’m an extrovert in many ways. But I really think writing is turning me into more of an introvert!

    • That’s cool, Katie! I an see how as an extrovert, writing turns you into more of an introvert: in its way it’s a very solitary and lonely process. I think, ironically enough, writing helps me be more extroverted, because as an introvert, I use writing to refresh and recharge. Then I can go out and face the world πŸ™‚

  6. Thank you for this article, it is great πŸ™‚
    So many parts of writing are fun for me: Getting to know my characters (I have a lot of fun with them, even when my thoughts about them don’t revolve around the story I’m writing), crafting the world, sometimes crafting languages, thinking about background history, drawing maps, finding different voices for my characters… oh, and the pleasure-and-pain part: Putting emotion into words, making emotions as honest and direct as I can in a language that I personally can enjoy. Well, on the whole: Writing what I’d like to read. That’s fun. I can’t even choose one of these things because I enjoy them all in different ways πŸ™‚
    By the way a), I feel your introvert/extrovert description πŸ™‚ I know this all too well.
    And by the way b), I purchased your book yesterday. I only skimmed a few pages by now, but I.can’t wait until I have the time to read it πŸ™‚

    • thank you so much for your support! I hope you enjoy the book when you have time to read it. If you enjoy the blog I think you’ll find the book along the same lines.

      I totally agree with you about writing and emotion: making emotion raw and real on the page…. that is the true power of fiction and what makes the lie so utterly true. For sure.

      Heh…. that might be an idea for a post in itself!

  7. Well, so far, I like writing without knowing the complete ending or what and why something is immediately happening. I have rewritten my book multiple times because I knew the ending and middle but didn’t know how to go about it. Now, I just write; letting my imagination flow differently day by day in different moods. So far, it is working and I learn different things about my book and characters by inspiration everyday, even when I’m not working on the book. I feel that I change my mind and am bored too quickly to stick to an outline. I hope using this way, things will work itself out and I won’t finish and have to start completely over again.

    • that strategy sounds really similar to mine!!! I accept that I’ll have lots of edits and additions and changes to make, and trust that in the end I”ll realize where I need to go and I’ll get here. I have a blast on the journey. I really, really LOVE the adventure of the journey πŸ™‚

  8. Great post, Victoria. Bringing the characters to life and learning their stories is great fun for me. I love dialogue and character interactions. It is fun to live vicariously through them, and also to feel as if they are friends in a way. I also love the world-building.

    • Word-building was a lot of fun for me too. I liked figuring out how each city in my kingdom of Herezoth, culturally, was distinct. It was very creative as well involving deep-thinking.

  9. Just what I needed to read today, thank you! I’m new to writing, and every so often I fall into the trap of thinking that outlines are the way it “should” be done. Yet for me, there is nothing that kills the fun (and my writing) more than an outline. It takes me back to my thesis days and to classrooms where I was told to write an outline (which I did, but only after I was finished writing the whole paper – smile). Thank you for reminding me that everyone is unique and it is about finding the approach that β€œmaximizes the β€œfun” factor amidst all the drudgery involved”. πŸ™‚

  10. In reading through the comments I think everyone already said what I would say, that it is the adventure my characters have that I enjoy. I don’t do outlines, I don’t do planning ahead and I just let the story take me wherever it wants to go and I get to know my characters as the plot unfolds each day. The thing is, I think sometimes I forget that writing should be fun. I end up getting lost in the details, in the editing and revision and I forget about the creation of my world, about the adventure the characters are having. So it was nice to read this article and be reminded that it should be more fun more often and I should try harder not to get weighed down by editing.

    • I’m glad the article was a good reminder for you. Truth be told, it was a reminder to me as well. That was the reason I wrote this post…. I needed to hear that writing should be fun πŸ™‚ I’m editing again, and editing is such a drain….

  11. I hate outlines and have never understood them. In pretty much everything I write I have no clue what will be coming out of my head when I sit down to write. I realized that when I am going through the first draft, that is my time for discovering the story just like someone reading it would. I find so many surprises along the way.

    The editing is work to me, though I am starting to get better at it. There isn’t as much to discover when you get to the point of editing.

    • I think we write with a similar process. I almost never outline, and have to do a lot of editing as a result. It works out…. because like you said, it’s all about the surprises during first draft composition. I like to consider myself my novel’s “First reader” so I love that you mentioned discovering your story as a reader would!

  12. Pingback: On fiction: How it’s all about the truth behind the lie | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

  13. I thought I’d chime in as someone who finds the developmental editing part of the craft almost as much fun as the writing and who also enjoyed this post!

    As the host of a writing chat, I have witnessed many a writer jump and strike at another who confesses to a different writing process and I’ve wondered why the need to assert theirs as “right” instead of just the one they like better. I wonder if the defensiveness is borne of writers (especially we as-yet unpublished ones) having so much trouble having their work accepted as legitimate and so using “it’s more fun for me” doesn’t feel like it’s enough of a justification. It’s almost as though we *should* bleed onto the page to justify our time spent writing (frankly, I suspect those who use phrases like ‘bleeding on to the page’ to describe their process – including Mr. Hemingway – do actually enjoy it, or at least enjoy being regarded in such a melodramatic way!)

    I think it’s equally legitimate to say “I hate outlining” and leave structure work till the first draft is done as it is to say “I love playing the ‘what if Character did this, instead?’ game” and work out the story in outline, first. When it comes down to it, all writers will need to address structure issues, or question if their first choices were the best, at some stage – whether they do it as they go, or after they’ve written the first draft, doesn’t matter (as long as they do it), so it doesn’t need to be justified, either πŸ™‚

    • I totally agree with everything you say here. Wow, Darcy, thanks for dropping by and chiming in. It’s sad to hear that authors feel that their approach is the “right” approach.

      Writing is art. There’s never one correct way to approach or make art. It’s all on the individual person…. What works for me might not work for others. I personally detest outlines but they can totally be wonderful tools for writers with a different personality type and different approach to writing than mine. It’s very true that at some point, though, we all have to look at, evaluate, and fix the structure of the piece.

  14. Writing is a release for me, a therapy of sorts. I feel relaxed afterwards, rewarded even.

  15. I enjoy writing and finding out where the story leads to, for me its the joy of reading a book for the first time as I never know the ending. πŸ™‚ great blog as always πŸ™‚

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