My Writer Self Vs. My Personal Self

Hi All!

Today I’ve chosen to chat about my writer self vs. my personal self. I decided on this topic because, in the process of starting my next book, I realized I go about writing much differently than I go about life. You see, in life, I’m a researcher and a planner. We want to go on vacation, I’m on the computer looking for the ideal destination months in advance. We want a new television, I’m on the computer researching the best brands, and I’m scanning store advertisements for the lowest prices.

I’m also a compulsive list maker. Heck, with a husband, three children, four cars, a house, a job, and a dog, I need to keep organized somehow. And let’s face it, there’s something deeply satisfying about crossing items off a to-do list. I’m actually getting a warm, contented feeling just thinking about it!!!

But when I write, all I start out with is a brief character summary for each of my main characters, ideas for a few random scenes (usually scribbled on scraps of paper – if they’re written down at all), and a short synopsis (that my editor insists I do! (Even though I typically stray from it by chapter 2!))  

That’s it.  I don’t do chapter by chapter outlines or even a  full story outline. I don’t have lists of story ideas or witty sayings I’d like to include. And aside from knowing the book will end in happily ever after, I usually have no idea what the actual ending will be or how I’ll get there until I’m deeply involved in writing the story. Which is why, throughout the murky middle, I can usually be overheard, grumbling some not-so-nice things to myself for not doing more planning ahead of time!

When I first started writing I used to do extensive research before I started a manuscript. Then a friend and mentor, multi-published author Janet Lane Walters shared that she doesn’t do research until she’s written the rough draft. I was flabbergasted! “How is that possible?” I blurted. To which Janet matter-of-factly answered, it made no sense to research something that may not wind up in the book. And she didn’t know exactly what would wind up in her book until she’d written it. Well, that made good sense to me. Then she added how, on occasion, she’d spent so much time exploring little side areas of her research that the story she’d been planning to write ended up not being written. (I’ve lost hours of writing time on research, myself!)

But, on the other hand, my good friend, author Aimee Carson, does hours of research before starting a book. When I questioned this she shared she’s gotten some great ideas for her stories by doing research. Well, that sounded good, too.  

I find somewhere in the middle works best for me. Aside from a bit of preliminary research to assure a topic I’m unfamiliar with will fit into my plot, I research as I go.  

So what about you? Are you a planner? A researcher? A list maker? If you’re a writer, do these traits carry over into your writing?

As an aside, on my to-do list for today is: Update blog. (Ahhhhhh) Apple Core for fresh apples. Post office. Bank. Pay school taxes. Grocery store. Buy food to donate to soccer collection and temple collection. Write 2,000 words.

What’s on yours?

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10 Comments

  • Posted October 4, 2011 at 3:00 PM | Permalink

    HI Wendy! Yep, you said it so well. The process changes for everyone at different times. I’m like you, I don’t like a huge outline but need to sell now with a synopsis, so I must ahve some type of structure! And I always struggle with the middle. AND I am a huge list person. My husband yells all the time since he drowns in pieces of my list paper. Right now, the list on my desk says: pick up applesauce/finish guest blog/write 1st chapter/do laundry/clean house (I just keep crossing that one off) and investigate banners fr promo. Great blog post!!


  • Wendy S. Marcus
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 5:29 PM | Permalink

    Hi Jen!
    I don’t even bother writing clean house!!! And laundry is something I do daily so it doesn’t make the list!

    Right now it’s 5:30 p.m. and I’ve done everything on my to-do list (plus a bunch of other stuff) except write 2,000 words. It’s going to be a long night….

    Thanks for stopping by!


  • Posted October 4, 2011 at 7:11 PM | Permalink

    My new mantra: 2K words written BEFORE I do anything (or much) else. Instituted exactly three days ago. So far it’s working, but I’m not sure for how long 🙂

    I HAVE to do some research first to get creative juices flowing.

    Good luck, Wendy!!


  • Posted October 4, 2011 at 7:38 PM | Permalink

    Fab post, Wendy. For me the research varies from book to book. Sometimes I’ll leave it an make notes so that if it ends up in the final draft I’ll research it. Sometimes I’ll do research before hand. I do love a good list though 😉


  • Wendy S. Marcus
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 9:07 PM | Permalink

    Hi Aimee!
    That was my problem today, I got involved online and didn’t get my 2,000 words done early on…

    And, actually, research does get my creative juices flowing. When I’m stuck I tend to do research and read craft books until I work my way through it!

    Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with your daily word count!


  • Wendy S. Marcus
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 9:12 PM | Permalink

    Hi Lacey!
    Good point. Research varies from book to book. In medical romance I tend to do a lot of research on the medical aspects of each story. In When One Night Isn’t Enough I also researched the DEA and the Office of Diversion Control. In my second book I researched therapy vs. service dogs.

    Actually, I like learning new things and sometimes get totally absorbed in my research and have to force myself back to work!!!

    Thanks for stopping by!


  • Posted October 5, 2011 at 11:54 AM | Permalink

    Oh, to-do lists! Just the thought sends a little chill down my slightly over-organizer spine. One of my secret pleasures is going to the stationary section of the big box store to pick out a new small spiral notebook to keep my to-do lists in. I know. But I can’t help myself.

    What’s on my list today?

    grocery store, laundry, edit chapter 4 of Cherry’s War, exercise, softball game, gas, return movies, on and on and on.

    Love those lists!


  • Wendy S. Marcus
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 1:18 PM | Permalink

    Hi Regina!
    Exercise is NEVER on my to-do list! Maybe that’s the problem…

    Thanks for stopping by!


  • Laney4
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 1:37 PM | Permalink

    OMG, Wendy. I HAD a list, but it went out the window when I awoke feeling like a Mac truck hit me. So instead, I am spending the day in my nighty, just got up from a 2-hour nap and am considering another one shortly, will snack instead of eating a proper lunch, must make supper for my husband (and me, I guess) before he heads out for his 12-hour shift, and will top it off by going through as many of my scrapbooking supplies as possible, looking for stuff I won’t use (because those items came in a package deal) so I can put it in my yard sale next May. Pretty exciting day!


  • Wendy S. Marcus
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 5:28 PM | Permalink

    Hi Laney4!
    Sorry you aren’t feeling well. Hope you are better and back to crossing items off your to-do list soon!


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