I mentioned that I wrote a blog post and would post it when I was on Buddy’s Writing show the other day. Sorry for the delay, but sleep wouldn’t allow me to put it off any longer. So, without further adu, the Grasshopper Method:
People often ask: How do you write?
It seems like a simple question, but everyone has a different answer. The most common is “put your butt in the chair and write.” But that doesn’t answer HOW you write. For that most people talk about pantsers, plotters, and in betweeners.
I do something that is part pantser, part plotter, and part crazy person who likes shiny things far too much. I heard someone else describe it as “the grasshopper method” and thought that fit perfectly.
Let me try and put it visually, and then maybe you might start to see why it’s…well you’ll see.
Imagine you are in the shower (because all great ideas start in the shower, right?) and the shower door is ninety percent fogged up, with a few places that are transparent, or half transparent.
The shower door is your blank page. It is where you are writing the story. Just beyond the shower door is the entire plot of the story, from beginning to end, neatly laid out in story boards. Through the clear places in the fog you can see little glimpses of the story: a character, an item they are searching for, the ending. The rest is obscured by the fog.
When I finally sit down to write a story I usually already have most of the plot in my head. I can see vague glimpses of the story because I’ve been chewing on it for several months, or years, already and have built it up in my subconscious. Little pieces might be missing, like how they get from point A to point B, or why they did this thing toward the end, but the majority of the story is right there behind the fog.
So I start clearing away the fog to get a clearer view. I jump to this patch that seems a little brighter and find the young prince and his entourage assaulting a toy castle in their pajamas. Up above that I find a mother desperately trying to keep her calm as her world is falling apart. I find a glade where something magical is waiting to be found, but I can’t quite clear away enough fog to see what that item is. I keep clearing, and I keep sorting, and eventually there comes a moment where everything snaps into focus. The last bits of fog are gone and the entire story board is laid out.
If you have seen a story board you know that it is made of a bunch of pictures. Each picture represents a scene. Once you have all the pieces of the story board you don’t quite have a complete story yet. Sometimes you have to rearrange things so they make more sense. Sometimes there are scenes in between the scenes that are missing. A lot of the time it is just a few little strokes of a pen (or in a writers case, a few paragraphs) that connect two of the pieces together.
When I sit down to write I write one piece at a time, and slowly connect them. Sometimes I rearrange the pieces. Sometimes I have to delete, or add in pieces. Sometimes I just have to hope I find that missing magic item in that glade and figure out what the heck it does. The story is already in my head, though, and I just have to coax it out. One tiny piece at a time.
The grasshopper method is not for everyone. In fact I would say it is something to be avoided. I don’t only skip between scenes in a story, I sometimes skip between books in an attempt to find some thread of a story that will come to the surface of the fog in my mind.
This has lead to other problems. It’s unlikely I will ever have a co-author because who could work with someone who can’t work in a straight line? I’m unpredictable, and I am constantly changing.
I’ve gotten better over the years. I’ve learned to do some beats to make the story boarding process faster, but even then I sometimes can’t seem to focus on one board at a time, I have to skip around to find the one that is speaking to me that day. Story beats have increased my output from two hundred words a day to almost a thousand though, so I’m not entirely upset about it. My goal is to get to three thousand words a day by the end of the year. It’s going to be tough, especially since half the year is already over. I’m giving myself permission to take breaks for marketing, editing, formatting, etc etc. And just to have fun. But if I can writing more on the days I do write it means I can have a lot more finished by the end of the year.
With the grasshopper method it is more about spending the time with butt in chair then anything else. The more I write the closer I get to completing something. And sometimes that means having several projects done in close succession, while other months it means nothing is finished. It’s frustrating. But it’s also the way my brain works.
Just a reminder, you can find my email newsletter here to find out about new short stories, or novels being published. Sometimes they are free. Also, Witch’s Sacrifice is out. It will be $2.99 till the end of the week then it goes up to $4.99. I should also start having audio books out next month.
Crissy, the shower analogy helps. This is how I am writing my novel. Scene-by-scene, not necessarily in order. The value is in showing the elements I must introduce in earlier scenes, that are not obvious until the later scenes are articulated. Besides, they are so shiny.
That’s what was great about writing an entire trilogy at once. I could see what was going to come later and could adjust things in the first couple books as needed. It’s not a good maps for most people, but it works for me.