Welcome to my series, The Writing Journals.
A companion series to The Editing Diaries, The Writing Journals is me talking about writing and complaining about writing and mostly giving general updates on how it’s going as I write this first draft. I don’t plan to talk much about the actual story I’m writing, as I try not to share all my excitement now and here, but instead pouring it into the story. So, no spoilers, sweetie. Now run.
Okay, the title is a bit misleading. I am not going to start at the very beginning. That would involve telling you about the original plot bunny and how I got from that to the story I have now. Which would involve me telling you about the story and I just got done writing that disclaimer. So, no.
Let’s talk about plotting, instead.
Plotting? I thought you were a pantser, Katie?
That… is an interesting point.
It’s been a very long time since I was a complete pantser. Several years, at least. I’m not entirely sure I can pinpoint the story when I started making lists of things I wanted to happen. I do know that by the time I was writing TCF (LASER‘s predecessor) five years ago, I was making lists of what happened in order of when it happened.
I don’t think I can call myself a pantser. In fact, when I try to “pants”, my characters ramble and do stuff like make me their older sister.
Looking at you, Nick Elliot.
But I can’t call myself a plotter, either. Plotter implies that I have everything planned out. I don’t. Plotting and outlining chokes me. I feel too constrained.
I am both plotter and panster. I do not outline the entire story before I start. Once I have enough to work with, it’s full steam ahead. Sometimes, it’s full steam ahead before that, but that usually results in backtracking and discouragement and evaluating if I actually want to write this story and reminding myself that it sometimes takes a few false starts.
But once I get started, magic happens. I start thinking of awesome scenes. I start filling in blanks. I start planning ways that my characters are going to get injured.
*cough* Sorry, Ben. I find the things I’m excited about writing. I find the plot twists that are going to knock people’s socks off. I find magic M&M cookies. (We’ll get to those in a minute.)
I’ve talked before on how I outline scenes. Sometimes, my mind will get a bit scrambled and I get overwhelmed, so I take a minute and write a mini-outline of the scene, including any bits I need to remember (Like include the foreshadowing or something). That usually knocks things loose for me and I’m able to write.
Sometimes, though, I still can’t get the scene out.
Sometimes, this is pure laziness. This is part of the reason I started using Pacemaker and Habitica to get it done. Pacemaker works kind of like the NaNoWriMo stats, where you get so much done and it tells you how much you need to write the next day. Only with Pacemaker, you can choose to not write certain days of the week and such and it still gets you through. You also don’t have to write a consistent number or an overwhelming amount in one month. (I’m not getting paid to advertise or anything– I just adore this program.)
When it’s laziness, another thing that helps most of the time is a word war. But with school starting back up, a lot of my word war peeps are… well, back at school.
Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet, stop worrying about what your internal editor thinks (lock her in a closet), and write.
What do you do if you still can’t find the words?
Look for magic M&M cookies.
Susan Dennard’s post talks about finding the magical cookies in a scene and really the whole story, magical cookies being the things you’re excited about in a scene. She also says that every scene should be a magical cookie scene or it needs to go.
Patricia Wrede’s post talks about how there’s no such thing as a perfect hook to get reader’s stuck through the end of the book and instead, you should be leaving a trail of M&M’s for them to follow.
Now, one of these is obviously about writing for yourself and the other is about writing for readers. BUT. Emotions of authors come through writing. And that includes boredom. Readers can tell that you were bored while writing a scene. SO. What do you do?
Make magic M&M cookies. Find the reason you are excited about this scene and find the reason readers will want to keep reading. If those are the same reasons, then great!
So. Let’s say you’ve done all this and you are, for whatever reason, still stuck. What do you do?
Jump ahead. Skip whatever it is you’re stuck on and move ahead.
Don’t look at me like that.
Seriously, write yourself a note. Like this:
There is nothing wrong with skipping ahead. I’ve already done it and I’m only on Chapter 4 and less than 6K in. And here’s the thing with skipping ahead. Most of the time, I fill in the gaps before it gets to alpha-readers. Most of the gaps.
Did I fill in all the gaps in LASER, alphas? I know I did eventually…
So. That’s my post on plotting. I think I’ll call myself a discovery plotter– I plot a bit, write a bit, panic, plot, write, OH MY WORD PROCESSOR THAT IS A FABULOUS PLOT BUNNY, WHAT IF THIS HAPPENS, write, OH MY POOR CHARACTERS I’M SO NOT SORRY, write… and the cycle just keeps going.