June 4, 2008

Searching for a Method to the Madness Part 3

So far we've looked at the two extremes of writing methods and a few techniques falling somewhere along the spectrum between. Today I have one final method to discuss, and it's one anyone can use successfully.

No, it's not some snake oil, magic bullet method. It can work for anyone because its very nature makes it customizable. One need only take some time to experiment a bit as they adjust the method to fit their needs.

The Mix and Match Method

Now wait a second, isn't a mix mash of methods really no method at all?

Actually, Dictionary.com defines a method as a procedure, technique, or way of doing something. Using different techniques for each stage of the writing process doesn't negate method. All those techniques add up to a plan. Instead of a road map, you get something more like a set of blueprints. Each page shows you something different, but put them together, and you still get a complete project.

Can you tell this is a mental road block I had to get through while writing this series?

In my search for a method to the madness that was my creative process, I've been using the mix and match method for years. I've just hadn't realized it was there in front of me this whole time, waiting to be tweaked into something streamlined.

I'll use what I've come up with for myself as an example of how to put the mix and match method into use.

When an idea first occurs to me, I record it in miniature until I finish my current project. This works well for me because my memory is most closely related to a sieve. The big ideas stay, but the smaller ones disappear into the ether unless they're recorded. Then, being one prone to insomnia, I'll use a bit of the naturalistic method to expand upon the miniature idea in the form of daydreams. It's an old technique I've used to combat insomnia since adolescence and honestly how I did most of the world building and brainstorming for Succession. I'm honestly surprised, not to mention a touch flabbergasted, I haven't used it for others. And I'll make notes alongside the miniature as needed.

As I'm drawing to a close on the previous project, I'll begin putting the brainstorming tree method to use. By this point, I should have enough of an idea of the world and story to build a fairly complete tree. I think I may use index cards on a peg board verses tiny blurbs on a sheet of paper because it would not only be easier to rearrange as necessary but provide more room for detail. (Sieve like memory strikes again.)

I hold the jigsaw method in reserve. Depending upon the complexity of the world and/or the expansiveness of the story itself, whether single shot, trilogy, or series, there are times I find it necessary to write a character study, short story, or just a single scene completely out of sequence. If I don't, I'm prone to getting so hung up on a particular plot point or idea that it gums up the works when it comes to the story as a whole. Plus I've notice a tendency in myself to originally place scenes in a sequence that makes sense while writing but not so much when the story is viewed as a whole.

I want to thank those of you who have commented on this series as it progressed. The discussion was immensely helpful to me as I searched for a writing method I could use with some consistency and efficiency.

And I hope my ramblings and the discussions were of some use to you as well.


  1. The blueprint metaphor reminds me of Tony Stark laying out the designs for Iron Man and then flattening them out. Sometimes the mix and match work like this. You keep bringing all of these disparate parts together over and over and then suddenly you see them all together at once and it all becomes so clear!

    Fantastic finale to this series, AB! I'm glad you've finally found the right method for your work.

  2. Thank you. I'm glad I did too. Maybe it'll help me get these stories finished a bit quicker, so I can get to the ones waiting in line.