Not very productive this week. I worked on plotting for a couple short stories, started season 11 of Writing Excuses, and wrote a poem. I’ve been dragging my feet on getting the requisite structures back in place — the inertia is no joke. I’m trying not to beat myself up about it too badly, but that’s kind of difficult too.
Episode 11.04 of Writing Excuses was about Newton’s Laws of Writing (or, rather, Howard Tayler’s Laws of Writing). They are:
- A word count at rest tends to remain at rest. A word count in motion tends to remain in motion.
- Word count equals motivation times focus.
- Writing is its own reward.
- Sanderson variation: Every word you write is worthwhile.
For the last couple of weeks, my word count has been at rest. And I’m starting to think that, while breaks work well for many people, they don’t work as well for me. At least not right now. I get kind of drifty and mopey and self-flagellating. MRK mentioned that sometimes the easiest way to get out of a funk is to simply start small, because it doesn’t end up staying small once you get going. Maybe three sentences. Maybe 250 words. But just starting there and letting it build. And, of course, the gentle reminder that time spent thinking about your story is still work towards your story. It’s not always just the new words (though those are obviously very important).
As for law two, my issue right now is the focus bit. I’m letting too many things distract me, and I’m being too lax with some of the rules that I know work for me.
So this week, getting structures back in place, and figuring out how to set some writing goals.
Buckle up, friends. This is a long one. Mostly to help me remember/collect some tools I’ve found.
I find these tools for building character much more useful than things like “the character interview” — where you ask things about favorite colors or food or whatever — because really, who cares? Those things are just trivia. Just like your knowing that my favorite color is green or my favorite food is scallion pancakes* doesn’t mean that you actually understand anything about me.
Pieces of trivia don’t reveal character motivation and drive and desire and limitation,** which are the things you need to consider when figuring out what a character’s Problem is and what they’re Going to Do About It.
There’s more than one way to outline a story.
(TL;DR Story outline template at the end of this post!)
You’ll see a myriad of methods published all over the place about the best way to do it, but ultimately, the best method is just the one that you’ll use. That is, if you plan to outline at all – many people don’t and discovery write their way to success.
I haven’t done too much research into all the different methods, because I just latched on to the first one that I learned about (from Writing Excuses, natch), which is the Seven Point Story Structure a la Dan Wells (he originally got it from a role-playing book, but it’s now widely associated with him). The idea is that every story goes sequentially through the following seven points:
- Turn 1
- Pinch 1
- Pinch 2
- Turn 2
As part of NaNoPrep, I’ve been reading a few books on writing to refresh my conceptualizations of the essential elements of stories: structure, character, style, etc. It’s been highly gratifying so far to remind myself of the mechanics of writing, and it’s rebooted my brain a bit to read more critically as well. I generally find it rewarding to get into the nuts/bolts, nitty/gritty, guts of things, although sometimes I’ll do it to distraction as a way to procrastinate the actual doing of things. (Constant vigilance in the War of Art and all that.)
In addition to reading and brainstorming, I’ve also been working my way through season 10 of Writing Excuses. Writing Excuses is a bite-sized podcast (~15 minutes per ep, tagline: “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart”) that contains a lot of depth and a lot of insight.