Your Plot Needs Planning

[found on fictionfactor.com; by Lee Masterson]

Effectively Outlining Your Plot

“Have you ever had an idea for a novel, and then just sat down and began writing without knowing exactly where the story was going?

It happens to everyone at some point, but most people begin to realize that the events in your plotline get confused, or forgotten in the the [sic] thrill of writing an exciting scene. There are those who continue to write on, regardless, fixing any discrepancies as they work, or (worse!) those who do not check that events are properly tied in place to bring their stories to a satisfying conclusion.

And then there are those writers who believe that creating a plot-outline is tantamount to “destroying the natural creative process”. The belief is simple; by writing it out in rough form, you’ve already told the story, so the creative side of you will not want to write it again.

Whichever type of writer you are, creating a simple, inelegant outline to follow s not the same thing as already writing the story, and it could save you an enormous amount of time and rewriting later.

The purpose of an outline in this case is to be certain that your storyline is not straying too far from the original idea. It is also a useful tool if you need to determine if your idea is big enough to be developed into a novel-length work, and not left as a short story or novella.

Your outline should be a simple reminder that, no matter how many events or characters or situations arise, your main theme will never get lost in the jumble of scenes.

Of course, this brings us to the problem to what was discussed above. There are writers who have a tendency to over-plot, thus really killing any spontaneity as far as the writing process goes. The biggest difficulty here is forcing your characters to go through motions that may not fit into their personality make-up simply to fit into your pre-existing, overly planned plotline.

So how do you strike a fair balance between aimless writing and over-plotting? There are several ways to accomplish this….”

To read the complete article from Lee Masterson, click here.

[found on http://www.fictionfactor.com/articles/outlining.html]
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Carve Your Time

“An idea is a gift, a finished project is turning that gift into a book by making yourself write even when you don’t want to. There is no such thing as a block of time to write. You have to carve time from a busy day.”

— Elaine L. Orr

Writer’s Block?

“I’ve always said “Writer’s Block” is a myth. There is no such thing as writer’s block, only writers trying to force something that isn’t ready yet. Sometimes I don’t write for weeks. And then all of the sudden I’ll get a rush of inspiration and you can’t drag me away from my notebook. But I don’t stress out if I don’t hit some arbitrary word count each day or if I go a few days without writing something.” 

― Julie Ann Dawson

Writer’s Block Begone

Here are some ideas to fight writer’s block. Tell us if you have any to add!

David Alm on writer’s block:

“Writer’s block is as much a part of being a writer as banging your head against the wall in frustration when publisher’s don’t return your calls. I jest, but seriously — it doesn’t matter how successful you are or what kind of writing you do; if you’re a writer, you’ve been stuck.

Not anymore, if the makers of Write or Die have anything to say about it. The app, now available for $9.99, aims to keep you on task by threatening you with some pretty dire consequences if you stop churning out copy. Set it to “kamikaze” mode, and it will begin deleting words you’ve already written after 45 seconds of no activity.”

—David Alm / Contrary Blog

13 authors views on Writer’s Block from FlavorWire:

    • “Suggestions? Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time.” – Neil Gaiman

Click to view the other 12.

Strategies for overcoming writer’s block:

“Taking notes

Jot down ideas and phrases as they occur to you. Free yourself from paragraphs and sentences for the moment–use flow charts, arrows, boxes, outlines, even pictures. Right now, you are worried about getting things down before you forget them.

Freewriting/Brainstorming

When you’re not just blocked, when you’re stonewalled, try freewriting. Sit down for ten minutes and write down everything you can think of about your topic. The object is to write without stopping for the whole ten minutes. If you can’t think of anything to say, write “blah, blah, blah” over and over. If other things occur to you as you write, go ahead and record them, even if they are not directly related to your topic. These distractions may be part of what is keeping you blocked.

Freewriting is good for uncovering ideas–it’s a good way to nudge “inspiration.” But the main purpose of freewriting is to get you moving! Most of what you write in those ten minutes will go in the recycling bin, but you’ll be warmed up and your serious writing should go more smoothly.

Brainstorming resembles freewriting but is more goal-directed. You start not only with a topic, say PROFS, but also with a goal: What do new users need to know about this system? Then allow yourself to jot down ideas for a set amount of time without censoring any possibilities and without striving for perfect prose. When the “storm” has passed, you can rearrange ideas, put thoughts into complete sentences, edit, and polish.

Piecework

Sometimes, starting at the beginning induces Perfect Draft Syndrome. It may be easier to get started if you approach the task sideways. If you’ve got a plan for the article or manual, choose a section from the middle or a point you know well and start there. Then do another section. After you’ve gained some confidence, you can work on the opening and smooth out the transitions.

What I Really Mean Is (WIRMI)

When you’re stuck in a quagmire trying to find the perfect phrase, switch to What I Really Mean Is and just say it the way you think it. Once you know what you mean, it is easier to refine the phrasing.

Satisficing (satisfy + suffice)

You “satisfice” when you take the first reasonable solution instead of searching endlessly for just the right word or sentence. If you’re unhappy with the choice, you can bracket it and promise yourself you’ll fix it later.”

—Writer’s Tips from css.illinois.edu

In The Trenches, Sigh In—Sigh Out

“Please don’t entertain for a moment the utterly mistaken idea that there is no drudgery in writing. There is a great deal of drudgery in even the most inspired, the most noble, the most distinguished writing. Read what the great ones have said about their jobs; how they never sit down to their work without a sigh of distress and never get up from it witout a sigh of relief. Do you imagine that your Muse is forever flamelike — breathing the inspired word, the wonderful situation, the superb solution into your attentive ear? … Believe me, my poor boy, if you wait for inspiration in our set-up, you’ll wait for ever.” 

― Ngaio Marsh, Death on the Air and Other Stories

Do You Have A Daily Writing Schedule?

[found on menwithpens.ca; by Kari]

“Successful writers write NO MATTER WHAT.” — Kelly Stone

“I’m not a self-schedule-oriented person. It’s far easier to stick to someone else’s schedule than your own. Self-discipline can be HARD.

So when James told me that I need a daily writing schedule, I balked.

I don’t want a schedule! I can’t guarantee where I’ll be at any single time. What if something else comes up? What if my child is home sick from school one day and I can’t write at my scheduled time? What if I’m not inspired at that time but get inspired later on?

Every excuse imaginable went through my head. I set a schedule anyways, just to be dutiful – I kept it for two days and then I quit.

James can’t be right all the time. What works for her may not work for me. Everyone does things differently, right? I need to find my own writing path…

Three months later, how much had I written? Well, let’s not talk specifics, but it wasn’t nearly as much as I’d wanted to achieve.

In fact, I was really embarrassed — even though no one knew about this but me.

I’m a writer, and a writer WRITES, but it’s pretty hard to believe you’re a writer when you lack proof to reinforce the claim.

Then James – damn her – sends me a book out of the blue. Ironically, it was Time to Write by Kelly Stone.

Sigh. FINE, I thought. I’ll read it.

Stone’s book discusses why writers need a writing schedule. They need to create a habit, and creating a writing habit means writing on a regular basis. By setting a particular time of day aside to write, you’ll practice your craft and reaffirm your belief that you are, indeed, a writer.

You reaffirm your commitment to yourself.

Stone says, “A schedule gives [writing] the same importance as your other must-do activities. Just like grocery shopping, picking up the kids from daycare, and putting in hours at your job, writing will become part of the natural flow of your day when you schedule it.”

My problem was that I wanted to wait for the “right time” to write. I waited to be inspired or to have “enough” time, a nebulous amount that changes depending on the situation. Occasionally I’d discover time to write, here or there, but instead of writing, I’d find myself staring at a blank page feeling like I’d forgotten the entire English language.

“Waiting for the right time to simply appear in your busy day is a guaranteed way to ensure that you won’t write because something else will come up… Suddenly it’ll be time for bed and you discover that another day has passed and you haven’t written.”

You said it, Kelly. Many nights I’d go to bed without having written at all that day, and I’d mentally beat myself up about it.

Fortunately, a little further in the book, Stone talks about how different authors use different types of writing schedules. She interviewed over 100 professional writers, from fiction authors to freelance journalists, to reveal their methods of incorporating writing into their lives.

What she discovered was that writers tend to choose one of these methods – which one fits you?

    • The Early-Morning Writer:  Rick Mofina, a crime novelist, considers writing in the early mornings a key to his success because his creativity was in top form. Waking up and writing before work was easier than writing after work, when he felt exhausted from his day.
    • The After-Hours Writer:  Carmen Green, author of Flirt and What a Fool Believes, begins after her job and childcare duties are over. She writes from about 7:30 to 10:00 pm and then gets ready for bed.
    • The Office Writer:  Novelist Steve Berry takes his laptop to work with him and writes before his co-workers arrive for the day. He also writes during scheduled lunch breaks and stays late at the office to write after his co-workers leave.
    • The Blitz Writer:  C. J. Lyons, author of Arrivals, says, “As a pediatrician I worked part-time, which was forty hours a week. Time to write was obviously scarce, so I would let my stories ‘ferment’ until I had a day off, and then the words would just flow.”
    • The Mini-blocks Writer:  Kathryn Lance, author of over fifty fiction and nonfiction books, balances her writing time and personal life in mini-blocks. “I used to write a minimum of one fiction sentence every night before going to bed. Or actually, before going to sleep — I did this in bed. I recommend that to people who just can’t find time to do their fiction.”
    • The Commuting Writer:  Rick Mofina also uses his commute time to help achieve his early morning writing goals, which is perfect for writers who use public transportation to and from work. “I use the commute to make notes, usually critical notes to myself, so I know where I’m going.”
    • The Any-Opportunity or Combo Writer:  Physician and bestselling novelist Tess Gerritsen wrote whenever she wasn’t on duty. “I would write on my lunch breaks, as well as after I got home. I’d write whenever I could — weekends, early mornings, and late nights. After I got home, as soon as the kids were put down for the night, I’d start writing.”

There were all types of writers! Inspired and repeating my new mantra (“successful writers write no matter what!”), I set up a schedule. A proper schedule I wanted to stick to. Finally.

Yeah, yeah, I know — James was right. Just don’t tell her I said that.

As a bonus, Time to Write also addresses problems that different writers have in sticking to their writing schedules, providing solutions and practical advice that work.

From needing more motivation to actually sitting down at your scheduled time to the issues that prevent you from being able to write in the first place (writer’s block) to gleaning inspiration from your daily life, she’s got it all covered, with backup: published authors who’ve lived through that exact situation attest to each solution. That way, you know that it works – and if it worked for someone else, it can work for you.

Now that I have a proper schedule, with clear goals, I accomplish far more each day than ever before. I’m not leaving my writing up to chance.

And my writing schedule is set in stone. I don’t schedule anything in that time because I need to build respect for my writing.

I’ve made my writing goals fairly easy to achieve, of course. That way, I can reach my daily goal quickly and then either stop or continue a little further. But I fully intend to change up my goals and make them more challenging as I build my writing habit and become comfortable with it.

One other thing James keeps reminding me — and yes, she’s definitely right on this one — is that my writing time needs to end on a positive note. If I’m exhausted at the end of my writing time stopped writing because I was stuck or ended thinking, “Well, that wasn’t great,” then at some point writing will become a chore. I’m simply not going to want to do it anymore.

By ending on an upbeat note, I feel good about what I’ve just achieved and look forward to writing the next day. It makes it a breeze.

What about you? Do you have a writing schedule you follow on a daily basis? How do you stay motivated to write consistently every day? What advice worked best for you when you started to incorporate writing into your daily schedule?”

[found on http://menwithpens.ca/writing-schedule]

Panic Not, Thou Writer of the Failing Plot Line

“Don’t panic. Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowel-curdling terror, as I contemplate the drivel on the screen before me and see beyond it, in quick succession, the derisive reviews, the friends’ embarrassment, the failing career, the dwindling income, the repossessed house, the divorce . . . Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end. Leaving the desk for a while can help. Talking the problem through can help me recall what I was trying to achieve before I got stuck. Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way….” 

― Sarah Waters