Automatic or Manual Transmission: which drives your writing?

Twenty-five years ago, I learned how to drive a stick shift. In fact, it was in my then-boyfriend-now-husband’s Camaro that I got pulled over by a cop for speeding. It was the second time I’d driven a car with a manual transmission. I batted my baby blues and said I was just learning how to drive.

“Looks like you’re learning some bad habits,” he said and handed me back my temporary, paper license. Yeah, I was that fresh to driving period.

He let me go with a warning, and I vowed that I would work on my driving skillz. You see, driving a stick shift is soooo much more difficult than driving an automatic. Hills suck. Hills in winter doubly suck. Starting smoothly takes practice and shifting gears can be tricky–especially with a tight shift pattern. Unintentionally killing the engine is a symptom of novice drivers.

But, oh can you have fun when you’re fully in charge of the power!

Writing comes in two varieties: manual and automatic. The latter is nearly a no-brainer. Sure, you have to watch for the other vehicles and obey traffic signs, but after a few years, it becomes as unconscious as breathing. You just do it, because the car novel nearly drives itself.

Manual transmission is a whole ‘nother story. It takes practice and skill and finessing. It’s a completely conscious way of driving your story forward. It adds an element of power and control–or the lack thereof for the newbie behind the wheel–and nothing is more freeing than learning how to slam shift a car to maximize the energy purring under the hood.

This isn’t about pantsing or plotting. It’s about being conscious of the story as you write. It’s about having one hand on the wheel and the other on the gear shift. It’s about listening to the story’s RPM’s and deliberately acting upon the natural rhythms, not just sitting back and letting the cruise control handle it all.

What kind of writer are you?

Curious minds want to know.

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5 responses to “Automatic or Manual Transmission: which drives your writing?

  1. I’m afraid I’m automatic…

    • Nothing to be afraid of! That’s why they make two kinds of cars. I think I used to be very automatic–it’s just easier–but have learned that this makes for some pretty heavy rewrites. I’m still a pantster, but I’m trying to be a bit more in control without killing the magic!

  2. Oooh. Now there’s an interesting question.

    With planners and pantsers, it’s easier to tell which category you fit into. This is a bit more tricky…

    I think I’m an automatic girl (driving as well as writing). I think my stories tend to come at me a bit too quickly for my own good, and I’m just keeping an eye on the road and making sure I don’t hit anything along the way.

    • I love that explanation! I have been working hard at being a more deliberate driver writer myself, but sometimes the stories just flash by like a deer on the side of the road!

      Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  3. Different writing is handled different ways: my journal entries I do not edit–I just get it down redundancies and all. Blogs I edit right away and on the computer. Letters I do not edit. I read them before sending them and make sure there are no errors–usually of omission. Short autobiographical stories , which I do not write too many I first get down and run a hard copy after each set of editing. Poems are usually generated from my journal. I edit right away from my raw material and run a hard copy and then edit, again, and run another hard copy, sometimes, sitting on it and edit it again from the hard copy and print and repeat the process until I am happy with it. I failed to note my wife edits my material. My blogs, poems, and other written material I read out loud to her for a general reaction and modify my material according to her reaction. She has good instincts. Also it is amazing what I hear when I read the material out loud especially regarding poems. I am keenly aware of my material read out loud. It has to sound right. That is some of my techniques and process I go through. My web site I created with my wife’s help to aid other writers.

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