The other day, I got to spend an enjoyable evening in the company with creatures of my own kind as part of a panel with other writers for NYC Teen Author Festival. It's always nice hanging out with other writers every once in a while, if for nothing else than to reassure yourself you're not the only crazy one out there. It's especially nice when we've gathered for the purpose of talking about our craft. Even though every writer has to figure out the process that works best for them, that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to learn from hearing about someone else's process.
Our discussion on Monday centered around the idea of character and voice. It was fascinating to hear how others go about discovering their characters. It seems many of us wait to begin a project until we feel as though we hear the main character in our heads. But how we go about finding that voice seems to range widely.
Some writers find a character within a plot they want to tell. I tend to start with the character and let he or she find the plot, though I've worked the other way too. One thing I learned by listening to the other writers was that the way you approach a project depends greatly on what the project is. I know that might sound fairly obvious, but it's less obvious than it seems.
Writing is like any artistic discipline, once you figure out a way that works, you tend to stick with it. But the danger in that is the risk of becoming stale. The skeleton of the process probably needs to stay in place, but there has to be room to freshen it up with new ideas.
If there's anyone who is, or wants to be, a writer and you happen to be in the New York City area Friday or Saturday, I highly recommend you attend some of the panels that are taking place on those days. There's an unbelievable amount of talent gathered to discuss different aspects of the writing process. They are all free and you'll learn a great deal. (Check here for a full schedule.)