writing

Analysis Paralysis

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve written as much of this book as I did in the previous several months (though that was off and on, since I had other things to deal with along the way). Something I’ve realized is that while a certain amount of planning is good for me, too much can paralyze me.

I’m generally a plotter. I find it hard to start writing a book when I don’t know the ending and a few landmarks along the way. I thought it would improve my process and speed things up if I planned even more. I started outlining each scene along the way, figuring out the scene goal and conflicts, what was going on with the characters, how the emotional axis would shift, etc.

And that seemed to paralyze me. I wasn’t happy with those scenes once I wrote them. The more I tried to adhere to the outline, the worse it got. Most of the scenes ended up not using any of the stuff I planned, so I tried to re-plan. The whole book was slow going, and I kept having to go back and rework things.

Then I decided I needed to finish the book in a week or so and started just writing. I still did some planning, but instead of the “formal” analysis of stuff like scene goal and conflict, etc., it was more about what could happen in the scene. And the book started flying. I haven’t re-read what I’ve written in the past couple of weeks, but I suspect it has a lot more energy.

I may need to consider all those scene outlines when it comes time to revise, but it may be that this isn’t necessarily the best way for me to work. I’ve never really got the hang of “scenes.” I can’t seem to analyze down to that level. I do better when I just let instinct take over and write what needs to happen.

You’d think with as many books as I’ve written, I’d know what I’m doing by now. I try to keep learning and improving, but sometimes the thing I learn is that I’ve been doing what I need to do all along.

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