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By Johannes Helmold

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writing styleHow do you write? I mean not your skill, or the way of organizing your work, or something else like this. I am talking about the way you “do” the writing, so to say—the way you pull the story out of your head and onto paper, and shape it out.

I know people who plan everything from the beginning until the end. Even though they haven’t written a single line of their future novel yet, they already know how many chapters it’s going to have, what exactly will happen in each of them, what the ending will be, and how everything is connected in their story. For example, one friend of mine creates separate Word documents where he describes various aspects of the story in details.

I am different. I also like to do some planning, but to me it’s more like a structured recording of my thoughts on the further expansion of my story in order not to forget anything interesting. Usually, my plan goes no further than up to four-five chapters ahead. Bios for my characters and other “supplementary materials,” as I call it, are also vaguely written—except the crucial, plot-affecting parts. As I write, my vision changes: I invent or reinvent plot twists, introduce new characters, and so on. Then I craft a plan for the next several chapters, based on what I’ve got at the moment, and so on.

Sometimes, I get a bright idea that contradicts something I’ve already written—then I return back, edit, or rewrite respective places in the text to eliminate discrepancies, and keep on writing. It is crucial not to be afraid to redo what you already think is done; it’s hard, because you’ve put so much effort in it, but if it can make your writing better in general, it’s worth it.

After I am done with The Main Part (which to me is writing a whole story down), I usually let myself cool down for a week or two. Usually, if I reread my writing right after finishing it, I don’t see that many flaws. I am like, “Yes, sir, this is quite a literary masterpiece.” However, after the cooldown period, when I can already judge more impartially, I am often like, “What the..? How could I write this? Looks like it’s time for massive editing!”

And sometimes editing only once is not enough. Dialogues are usually difficult for me to compose, so I have to rewrite them like 20 times to make them look like live speech.

I do not know if it is possible to write a decent story right away, without planning, thinking it over and over again, editing, and so on. Perhaps, it is. What I do know is there is no one proper way of writing. It’s similar to photography: there are some basics and rules you should be aware of, but after you figure them out, you are on your own.

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