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Writing Plan – Sort Of

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The very first short story I wrote in third grade I sat down with a pen and a blank journal. I put the pen on the paper. Scratching the title into the page (Close Encounters of the Laughing Kind) in my even then terrible hand writing. No plan and no idea where I was going. I wrote several short stories in that journal and was completely hooked. Although, I did figure out that I needed lines. I hated writing on papers with no lines.

I spent most of my young life planning very little and writing a lot. This was not a strategy that changed all the way through high school. Then I took some writing classes in college and began reading lots of how to write books by authors whose only published credit was the “how to write book” (this should have been a clue). Many of my teachers and lots of the books talked about planning and outlining. Knowing where you were going. Not leaving things up to chance.

Up until this point in my life I had mostly written short stories, short screenplays and comic scripts. I started planning a little more. I made sure I outlined and had a clear idea of where I was going. I began trying my hand at novels. Let me tell you I outlined the hell out of those novels. Most of the outlines were eight billion times larger than the attempted novel which followed. I started and abandoned more novels than I even care to remember. Truly, I had become a novel serial killer. Finding great ideas, fill them full of notes and then kill them dead when I tried to write it.

Then I just gave up. The failure became too much. The rejection to deep. A little part of me died. I kept reading the how to books. I started buying lots of nifty software. I kept planning books and scripts that I never wrote. When I decided to give it another try a few years back it was mostly on a whim. A whim filled with inspiration and kindness. Two musicians (Zoë Keating & Kim Boekbinder) reminded me what it meant to be an artist. Showed me why bottling up my creativity was eating me alive inside.

I decided this time I would do what I remembered loving as a young child. I would dream and create. I would sit down in front of a blank computer screen and see where the words would take me. This does not mean I have totally abandoned planning and outlining. I just do it completely different.

I start with an idea. I let it bang around in my head for awhile. I think about characters and settings. I think about possible plot lines. I start and stop a lot of ideas in my head. At some point characters begin to talk to me in my head (I knew the voices would come in handy one day). Sometimes the dialog is so good I write it down (although not often). Mostly this is just the characters flexing their muscles. Showing me who they are going to be. The plot starts to take shape and I begin to see scenes in my head. This is usually where I know it is almost go time.

Most of this happens over a period of months. It is a long outline but only tidbits make it onto the page during this time. I wouldn’t say I am waiting for inspiration because I am a thinker. It isn’t inspiration. No magic lightning bolts for me. Luckily, I have a really good memory and when I do start writing the parts I liked come flooding back to me. At some point I think of a scene that I realize is a perfect jumping off point. A great opening scene. This is where I sit down and start hammering the novel out. Once I start typing I am a very linear writer. I don’t bounce around in my chapters. I write one chapter after another.

I also begin to take notes. I use a writing program called Scrivener. It is a great program. It lets me set up places for my notes. It has cork boards. I can keep a huge amount of information on my novel in one place. This really helps me work. As I introduce a character I write them in my notes. If I have an idea for a plot point I put it into the notes. If I make a mistake or change something later in the book it goes into my error file. This lets me know I have a plot point I have to fix. This usually happens when I think of something really interesting I want to put in the story but know I have to go back to earlier in the book to lay down the ground work.

I keep this up everyday. A minimum of 1000 words a day and wham a completed novel. I will then read the book out loud to start the editing process. Make sure it sounds right. I did change this slightly with the new book. Since it was my first adult novel and a complete hybrid of two genres I have been reading it to Sheri. I wanted to make sure I had the tone and setting right. So far she is digging it. This new method has helped me finish two novels. I am rocking right along in my new one. I can honestly say I am having the best time yet, writing a novel. I am thinking I might be getting the hang of it. I can’t wait until I get to throw out on my Twitter stream a request for readers. This will be a first for me. So far I have had a very controlled group of readers. This time I am taking the baby step of letting others see what I have done. None of this is a guarantee that the rejections will stop but at least I am loving it. Creating art fills my body with joy.


Art by Alex Pardee

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One Response to “Writing Plan – Sort Of”

  1. Shannon says:

    >Please keep me in mind when you are looking for readers. I love your writing! You have that special skill to pull the reader into the story. I felt like I was standing there, watching the story unfold before me, instead of reading with the last stories you sent me. I will happily read anything you send my way!

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