Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Advantage to Outlining

I’m not a pantser.  I tried it once and it was an absolutely terrible experience.  Not necessarily because I didn’t enjoy the chance to find out as I wrote.  I actually enjoyed that. 

What I didn't enjoy was what happened next...

I’m still working on the revisions to piece together the story so that it’s manageable. 

I’m a planner by nature.  Everything needs to have a plan.  Our family recently received some disheartening news last month, and it was difficult to adjust to our new situation.  However, as I began to think about it, and with some wonderful friends who encouraged me, I realized that this was exactly what I’d wanted, though not in the way that I wanted.

Now, I know exactly what to expect for the next two years.  I know where I’m going to live, I know where I’m going to work – I can make plans in a semi-long term fashion.  In fact, my husband and I have made a 2 year plan, and it’s a relief to know exactly what I need to do to achieve our brand new goals.  It’s something visible, something I can follow and know if I’m on track or not.  If something new comes alone, I can figure out if it fits into the plan, and if it doesn’t, then I can discard it or adapt it to the plan.

I need the same thing in writing.  If I don’t know where the story’s headed, all sorts of sidetracks are taken.  I get lost easily, so my writing is full of dead ends, u turns and slippery slopes.  I need a map to figure out the journey before I even start.

I started working on my NaNoWriMo outline this week, and I’ve got to say, I’m starting to get excited.  The story’s coming together – slowly but surely.  There are already those rough starts, the accidental side road, but I’m fixing it now so that once I get to November, it’ll be nothing but a smooth, exhilarating ride. 

Honestly, what could be more frustrating than getting lost or even stuck in the middle of nowhere when you’ve got somewhere you want to be?

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Advantage of Self-Doubt

Let me clarify.  I’m not talking in the writer.  As writers, we’ve got enough people doubting us – even if they don’t say it out loud.  We’ve got to have faith in ourselves even when things don’t look to be sunny and rosy. 

I’m talking about self-doubt in the character. 

Right now, I’m halfway through Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy.  I avoided reading the second book because I wasn’t sure how I felt about the first book.  This year’s NaNoWriMo theme in our region involves the Hunger Games, so I figured I’d better find out how it ends.  So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

As I was thinking about the book so far, I realized that almost nothing has happened.  Plot wise, it’s been a very slow book.  Yet, I’m still riveted.  I still want to keep reading.  Why?

Katniss is one of those complex characters that always keeps me guessing.  Honestly, with the self-doubt she struggles with, I’m amazed she’s not mentally crippled.  From the first book, I wouldn’t have expected that.  She just won, she’d somehow beaten the system.  I’d have been elated.  Instead, she’s pulled away, reexamining everything that happened and believing the worst of herself.

Why is the effective?  Because when the character doubts themselves, then the reader will too.  Each character must endure trials and struggles.  Otherwise, there would be no story.  The reader goes through the experience with the character, and it’s important that they realize the danger of losing.  If you’re cheering for someone, it’s more exciting when there’s a chance they won’t achieve their goal.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to Katniss, but knowing that she doesn’t know that she’s going to win means that there’s a chance that she won’t.  There’s a chance that everything will end in disaster.  That’s why I keep reading.  Not because the action is riveting, but because I want to see the outcome. 

Now I want to go back and double check how confident my characters are in myself, and I know the one who probably needs a health amount of self-doubt.  From the start, she’s overly confident, and I’ve got to find a way to knock her down, give the reader a chance to wonder if she’s going to win.

Do you infuse your character with doubt?  Do you raise the stakes so that the reader wonders if victory is even possible?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Is it September already?

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, life unfortunately got in the way.  I’m hoping that things start to get a little more normal soon. 

The month of August wasn’t very productive in terms of writing.  I might have written 5-6 thousand words total.

It’s been a long time since I’ve gone that wrong without writing, and it’s been a strange experience.   I honestly miss my characters.  I want to know what they’re doing, and what’s going on in their lives.  They really are a part of me, and writing is my way of keeping in touch.

This month, my only goal is to find time every day to write.  I need to get back into the habit.