Writing Methods Blog Chain…

Posted: July 24, 2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Over on Query Tracker Kate Quinn had the idea of starting a blog chain.  The idea is that there will be a topic and each of us will link to the next person’s blog (hence the chain part…) for different takes on the same topic.  The first topic is Writing Methods.  The chain starts here with Kate’s post on what made her “finally  just freakin’ do it.”   I’d post all the other links between the two of us, but it’s a chain sweetie so to get the goods use the lil clicky mouse thing 😉

My Take…

So many writing methods, so little time.  Yeah, I could go the traditional route…tell you how well Butt In Chair works for me, but that’s not really gonna help YOU is it?  After all, you’re reading my journal instead of writing the great American Novel.  And BIC is great and all, but I’m posting on here and not writing.  The fact that we’re both here, slurping up random journals, checking out youtube, downloading songs… Well, I’m here to tell you you’re off the hook.  In fact, give yourself a cookie because you’re doing it right.  My writing method? 


Shiny links, odd news on Yahoo, random chats on gmail…every bit of it is important to my writing process.  I never know what’s going to spark.  Which little sparks are going to flare and take the plot in a completely different direction.  I’m not an outliner.  AT ALL.  I never know where inspiration for the next story is going to come from, let alone the next scene.   But that is a big part of my method.  Not outlining, not knowing leaves me open to all kinds of possibilities.  The key is making distraction work FOR you.

Ya know Reapers…the novel I’m working on now?  Well, for the sake of this blog I’m gonna part with an embarrassing  little secret.  The short story that’s grown into Reapers was inspired by a line from…….Jackass.  Yes.  MTV Jackass.  Johnny Knoxville Jackass.  And what was I supposed to be doing while I was watching Jackass?  I was SUPPOSED to be writing a short story for a Fiction Writing class. 

I’d hunkered down at

‘s parents house with all intentions of getting to BIG SERIOUS WORK.  His parents were out of town. all that week.  But did we throw a party?  Drink till we puked?  No, we wrote till 2am almost every night they were gone and were elated about being able to.  I still think that’s pretty damn cool.  Anyway, the story was overdue.  I’d promised my prof that I had the story done, would bring it in the next time class met.  Total lie.  At about 9 pm I hadn’t even started it. 

I’d been staring at the blank page for about an hour before the shiny in the form of Jackass won out (keep in mind, this was almost 8  years ago…I was 19 or so.  People stapling their ass cheeks together was decent entertainment in those days…*sigh  Ok… it still cracks me up).  I can’t remember the specifics of the episode…how it all went down…only that one of them was skateboarding in some kind of skimpy blue lycra thing, wiped out and slammed into the ground.  The line?  “Skin and concrete do NOT mix”. 

From that, came the story of these weird, jaded and absolutely sociopathic teenagers watching a guy on a ledge.  A jumper.  Betting on whether he was going to do it or not.  The whole short story popped into my head.  From WHERE I don’t know, but it was there.  I wrote most of it that night.  Lege worked on it too, editing it and adding in some of his flavor.  The story was only about 6 pages or so long.  I stumbled over it a few times in the years between then and now, giving it a quick read through before stuffing it into a moving box or tossing it into a folder for safe keeping.  I always felt a little…off after reading it.  Those kids never really sat right with me.  I knew there was more to their story.  I just couldn’t figure out what.  Finally this past March with Lege’s blessing, I decided to do something with it. 

But I didn’t start writing the novel.  Again, I went for the shiny things instead.  I knew it was set in NYC, the teens in the story were kind of goth raver types.  I spent a good 3 days or so making myself a soundtrack.  Techno wasn’t my thing, but it was THEIR thing.  I downloaded and fell in love with the beats of Paul Oakenfold.  I searched out German Industrial techno…  Not writing but all part of my writing method.  I lost myself in their world.  I scoured images for hours, finding pictures of models, actors, even a random kid on myspace who happened to look like my character Jarrod.  For about two weeks, I researched subjects I thought might relate to them.  Quotes, songs…anything that they’d like.  Eventually, Eden’s story fell into place and Reapers was born. 

If I’d done the Butt In Chair complete concentration on word counts thing right off the bat, this story never would have come about.  Sure, eventually you’re gonna have to knuckle down and write, BIC and all that.  Discipline isn’t a bad thing by any means. 

But if the words aren’t coming, don’t be afraid to let your brain run.  Stuck halfway through?  Need a plot twist?  Forgive yourself for watching this, or this or even this (FYI, if you write a story about what happened to Andre  or Zombie Snails you will be made of win 🙂  )  Forgive yourself for giving in to the call of America’s Next Top Model.  For daydreaming and listening to the ranting man sitting next to you on the subway instead of popping on the Ipod and setting to work.   Maybe those crazy mutterings are the plot twist you’ve been waiting for. 

Distraction.  It’s not a weakness. 

It’s a method. 

(This is a blog chain… the next link can be found HERE  (you’re up Kiddoc!)

  1. fandoria says:

    Great post! And I suddenly feel so much less guilty now. *g*

  2. hldyer says:

    Thought I couldn’t do it, didn’t you? *snort
    Well, mine is up now.
    Can I just say I LOVE that you got inspired by Jackass? *grins*
    And do you think Butt In Chair is how “Bic” pens got their name? *strokes chin

    • leahclifford says:

      Re: No way!
      Bic… You’re GENIUS!
      I was informed after the post that the line was Lege’s. He hates that show, was cruising the channels and happened to look up just as the guy fell. Just one of those weird planets aligning things 🙂

  3. elanajohnson says:

    No way!
    Hey! I knew it, I just knew I was doing research while surfing the Internet, chatting, and basically just looking for something. I LOVED this post – thanks Leah! Oh, and I just broke down and joined live journal. *sigh* 🙂

  4. katekquinn says:

    I am a spazz
    In my insane excitement at being able to leave a comment… I uh, sort of prematurely and completely accidentally hit the post comment button – so if some half-finished thought posted above please ignore.
    The reason I was so excited to comment is because this is such a great entry – I know I am going to have to bookmark it so I can refer back to it whenever I am feeling guilty about my procrastinating ways (like leaving overly long comments on other people blog’s perhaps?)
    Also, I love how you get so into your WIP – you are so totally method – you’re like the Sean Penn of writers!

    • leahclifford says:

      Re: I am a spazz
      Oh you are SO my new BFF! Because of:
      Exhibit A: The reason I was so excited to comment is because this is such a great entry – I know I am going to have to bookmark it.
      Exhibit B: you’re like the Sean Penn of writers
      Exhibit C: (like leaving overly long comments on other people blog’s perhaps?) I LOVE overly long comments! 🙂 Never cut words in Livejournal Comment Land!
      Exhibit D: your livejournal…where you said you made a livejournal just to comment on my blog *blushes

  5. marylindsey says:

    In search of things shiny
    You are amazing Leah. Fabulous post.
    I love katequinn’s Sean Penn analogy.
    I teach acting ..method acting, actually. I teach my students, that while they must remain aware of the technical aspects of their performance, they should develop their character from the inside out. It makes for a far richer and more believable performance.
    That is what you have done with REAPERS. You have developed it from the inside out. Thanks for sharing your writing method. Keep following those “shinies.”

    • leahclifford says:

      Re: In search of things shiny
      Glad you liked the post! I’m hoping my Method method works…now that babyniece is here, I just have the BIG MOVE and FIND NEW JOB to cross off before I can set to SERIOUS EDITS work. I’m really nervous about querying for this one…but hope it’s as fun as the last!

  6. carrie_ryan says:

    It’s funny what sparks us and gets us thinking! I love those moments when out of nowhere, your mind catches fire on an idea. You’re right, you totally have to allow yourself to be open to those types of sparks!

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