Do writing short-cuts exist?

I heard this question posed in a chat room and while the rest of the room flooded that individual with the correct do’s and don’ts of writing, I sat silent. It was a good question. Then I began to think about my own process and how it’s evolved since I began writing. Could I have learned a different technique in the beginning that would have eliminated extra time while writing? while editing? And my answer is yes, I think there are ways to skip ahead, so to speak. But a short-cut is only a short-cut to someone who is currently not using that process and then finds it easier when trying it. For me, I definitely took the long way around, trying to soak up as much as I could from other writers, authors, editors, and industry professionals, so anything I’m able to do right the first time seems like a short-cut for me.

One of the easiest examples I can think of is when it comes to fleshing out characters. When the brainstorming phase begins, it’s simple for me to envision what the characters are doing and why. Then I begin to see the whole story unfold in front of me and I can’t pick up a pen fast enough, but when it comes to defining details of my MC, I rely on generalizations to pull me through. And then I hit a Dead End. I understand that I’m a plot driven writer and not character driven writer. Which is okay. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It just means I have to do a little more work when it comes to developing my characters. A lot more work, actually, because I can’t remember the last time a book kept my interest based on plot alone.

So, I look to the stars. People who are born under the same sign, share similar personality traits that are impossible to deny. This is how I determine my MC’s date of birth. I start with a general description and then seek out the horoscope with the most similar personality traits. From there, I can research a more in-depth look into traits of that sign. With that, I can accurately guide my MC actions to comply with what their hardwired to do. Now, this is just an earthy starting point. When I begin exploring motivations, physical descriptions, and personality traits, I can delve deeper into their psyche and be able to fill out a basic character sketch. That paired with what my character has experienced in their past will also help shape who they are. Where they lived, how they were treated by family and peers. What type of social/racial conflicts do they deal with/or have they overcome? Is their natural behavior overshadowed by another aspect of their life? Does their religion prevent them from being who they truly want to be? Does anything else? Plus a list of about fifty more questions to ask your MC, but I’ll save that for the post with an in-depth character sketch, coming soon.

Do you as a writer have any habits, processes, or “short-cuts” that have successfully worked for you?

Until next time – happy writing!

2 Comments on “Do writing short-cuts exist?

  1. Not that it has worked for me, per se, or that I have ever even tried it, actually, but I have read that knowing the end of your story and then working your way backwards can help remove a lot of barriers. Like you are, in writing terms, swimming downstream rather than up.

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    • I agree, and I’m beginning to rely more heavily on a structured outline (another short-cut), rather than just what feels right at the time. But ultimately, I’m a firm believer in use whatever method that works for you to achieve your end result. 🙂

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