Tag Archives: writing fiction

NoNoWriMo Tips: Week Three

 

Some people say that week two is the hardest, but I’ve always found the third week to be the most difficult to find motivation. Sure, in week two, some of the shininess and newness of NaNo and my WIP wears off, but there is still enough magic to keep me motivated.

If you can make it through week three, you are a hardened NaNo warrior.

It is week three that makes me question my sanity for signing up to write 50,000 words in a month, and leaves me certain that all these words are in vain because I’m going to delete the pile of nonsense as soon as the month is over.

To get through week three, here are some things to remember. (I’m sure I’m going to be rereading this myself.)

 

Your novel isn’t garbage.

At this point, you may feel like your novel is a heaping pile of garbage. No surprise, since you’ll be working your way through the middle of your novel, and that is notoriously the most difficult part to write.

Throw-in-garbage GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

If you are ready to archive your novel’s folder in a place you’ll never have to look at it again and forget reaching that daunting 50,000 words, know that you aren’t alone. The great thing about NaNo is, you have thousands of other writers who are going through the same things you are.

Doesn’t make you feel better?

Yeah, knowing there are other people feeling as lost as I am on their novels didn’t make me feel better either. Why do NaNo Pep talks assume it does? 😀

Anyway, I do have something that will make you feel better. At least, this little exercise works for me.

Grab a sheet of paper or sticky note. Now, write down three things that you really like about what you’ve written so far. It could be a scene, a character who has really come to life in this draft, a favorite line of dialogue. Or even the fact that you’ve written half a novel!

Top 30 Writing A List GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat

Keep this list somewhere you can see it. Stick it on your computer screen. Place it on your desk. Read it before you start writing or any time you feel like giving up.

Sure, there may be some things about your WIP that need fixing, but that’s why we don’t stop with the first draft. No one’s first draft is ready for publication. Focus on the things you are proud of, and remember that the purpose of a first draft is just to get the words on the page so you’ll have something to work with later.

 

Don’t be stressed about falling behind.

You may be a little behind at this point. Or maybe you are way behind and are scared you’ll never catch up.

First, take a deep breath.

What is going to happen if you don’t reach 50,000 words? Will the NaNo police come nab you and give you a life sentence that forbids you from writing? Will all the other NaNo writers show up to your house to shame you for not completing NaNo?

Sorry to disappoint you if you were hoping they’d post your picture on the home page with the words NaNo’s Biggest Loser underneath, but nothing so grandly dramatic is going to happen.

Top 30 Disney Sighing GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat

If for some reason you aren’t able to catch up and the end of November comes around to find your novel at 40,000 words or 25,000 words, then so what? Nothing bad happens. You can keep working on your story in December. You can walk away from NaNo knowing that you have more words down than if you didn’t participate.

But don’t give up on reaching that goal just yet. NaNo is full of ups and downs. You may be in a writing slump today, but tomorrow may bring a 5,000-word writing sprint that catches you up.

You still have the rest of this week and week four. You may be surprised at how many words you can crank out as NaNo comes to an end. 🙂

Remember why you started.

Why did you chose to write this story? Was it because you fell in love with the characters? Because the plot was absolutely thrilling? Because the world you imagined was stunning?

12 New Year's Resolutions from Disney Princesses – As Told by Laura

Reach back to those things that made you excited to start on this story. Pretend you are getting the story idea for the first time. Close your eyes and imagine that first scene you saw, or the first character that came to you. Spend a few minutes going through the first notes you took, or write something new that focuses on that one thing that made you excited to start writing back on November first.

You may choose to write a paragraph of your favorite character rambling to you, or bring more detail to a worldbuilding aspect, or dive deeper into a plot twist.

Remembering why you started writing this story will give you the strength to keep writing. Your characters deserve it, your world deserves it, you deserve it.

Keep writing! After this week, next week will fly by.

 

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week One

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week Two

pinterest buttontwitter-buttonInstagram

Want fun and informative writing videos delivered to you every quarter? Join my newsletter!

Advertisement

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week Two

We’ve made it to week two! If week one went well, your excitement and motivation is probably still high. I am still riding the high of finishing a whole week of NaNoWriMo and ready to see even more progress this week.

Having said this, I know this enthusiasm is about to take a dive as quickly as my energy when a caffeine high wears off.

Which leads me to my first tip about week two of NaNo…

Enjoy the NaNo high, but don’t count on it.

Enjoy the rush while you can, but don’t count on it pulling you though the month.

I don’t say this to scare you. But on my first NaNo, around this time I was thinking, “This is pretty easy. I’m so motivated. NaNo is like a magic elixir giving me writing superpowers!”

Disney Magic GIFs | Tenor

Then disaster hits….

Okay, that was a bit dramatic, but all that sparkly NaNo magic usually disappears by the end of week two or beginning of week three. If you aren’t ready for it, you may wonder what went wrong. Or decide that because writing isn’t as exciting as it was during week one, that something is wrong with your story.

I’m warning you now. Be prepared to have those rose-colored, NaNo glasses ripped off your face, but don’t let the change in scenery make you quit.

Celebrate your progress.

When the rush of excitement leaves, keep your motivation by looking at the progress you’ve made. You are probably around the 11,000 to 16,000 word mark by this time (depending on when you are reading this).

Minions-celebration GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

That is a large chunk of your novel! You’ve written more words than you would have in a normal writing week/week and a half. Take a moment to congratulate yourself on your progress.

Celebrate your wins, and don’t worry that it doesn’t feel as new and shiny as it did in week one.

Don’t delete words.

I am guilty of stopping to rework sentences and paragraphs while writing the first draft. Editing while drafting may seem like you are giving yourself a smoother draft to go over later, but if your goal is to write 1,667 words in an hour and a half, you are going to fall behind quickly if you stop to reread and rewrite every paragraph.

Rereading also leads to deleting words. Lines of dialogue that sound stiff, descriptions that are bland, or awkward sentences beg to be deleted. But every time you delete a sentence, you are shortening your word count and making it more difficult to reach your goal for that day.

Speed Reading GIFs | Tenor

I get it. Sometimes it is unavoidable to read over the last lines. I’m not saying that you should never look back at what you wrote. Just be careful not to spend too much time trying to rework a paragraph or find the “perfect” adjective to describe your character’s home-knit sweater.

If you find yourself cringing at something you wrote and your finger is hovering over the delete key, do this instead; Put a line through it.  This way it still counts towards your word count, but you don’t have to worry that you won’t catch it when reading over your draft later.

Remember to give yourself a break.

Chances are, you’ve lived, breathed, and ate NaNo for the last week. That word-count goal is the first thing on your mind when you wake up, your next scene is the thing you daydream about in traffic, and your characters are there to talk your ear off before you go to sleep.  (If it hasn’t been this way for you, then I’m not sure whether to congratulate you or to tell you to step up your level of commitment. 😉 )

In the whirlwind that is the first week, you may be able to keep up a hectic pace, but most of us won’t be able to keep that same level of intensity for the whole month.

Of course staying motivated, working hard, and exercising your self-discipline is important, but you don’t want to burn out before the month is over.

Taking A Break GIFs | Tenor

Make sure that you carve out a time during the week NOT to think about NaNo, word counts, or that one character that might as well be replaced by a plant for all the lifeless dialogue they spit out.

I like to give myself Sunday off. I write much better during the week when I have one day to recharge. To do this, I need to write more words during the week or double the words on Saturday. This way, I’m not falling behind during my break day and having to play catch up when I start back. This would defeat the purpose of a break day because I would spend it feeling guilty that I’d purposely made the decision to fall behind or worrying that I wouldn’t be able to make the double word-count goal the next day.

It gives me an extra 277 words a day (or 3,334 words on Saturday), but it is worth it to me to have a guiltless break during the week.

Even if you prefer not to take a whole day off, or can’t take a whole day off, carve out some time during the week to give yourself permission to give your writer’s brain a rest. Take a walk, soak in a bath, or listen to an audiobook.

Only Disney

Giving yourself a scheduled time to take a guilt-free break makes it less likely that you will be too burned out to write one day and fall behind. It is much harder to write double the words when we perceive that we are behind or have “failed” than it is to write double the words when we see it as getting ahead or doing extra.

Now that you are ready for week two, get to writing! 😉 I’ll be back next week, and we’ll conquer week three together.

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week One

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week Three

pinterest buttontwitter-buttonInstagram

Want fun and informative writing videos delivered to you every quarter? Join my newsletter!

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week One

Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month! I am stoked to be doing this again after taking a few years off.  I’m also a bit nervous because it feels like my first time all over again.

I took some time to think about how I completed NaNoWriMo in previous years….what worked and didn’t work…what helped me get through the month. Because I don’t have enough writing to do this month, I decided to write them all down and share them with you. 😉

I’ll be walking you through each week of NaNo as they come, so you won’t be alone in the ups and down that come with writing 50,000 words in a month.

These posts will give you an expectation of the unique challenges each week brings and the tools to overcome those challenges so you can finish your novel (or if you are a long-winded writer like me, half of your novel).

Week one is the easiest, since we are excited and motivated to start. But there are still a few things to keep in mind during this week to set yourself up for success for the rest of the month.

Set time aside to write in advance.

Thinking that you will do it “whenever you have time that day” usually means that everything else pulling for your attention is what you do instead. Having a set time will ensure that you don’t get to the end of your day and realize you have a mound of words to write.

Asleep At The Desk GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

No one wants to stay up two hours past their bedtime to write (well, unless inspiration hits 🙂 ). Or even worse, go days without writing, and then have to write 10,000 words in one day to catch up.

Everyone’s optimal time to write is different. You may want to get up earlier for a before-work writing session, or you may find that writing after dinner works best for you.

It is okay if this time you set aside fluctuates a bit. In my previous years of NaNo, I did the majority of my writing in the evenings, but also had my share of writing sessions before I left for work just to change things up a bit.

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t reach your daily word-count goal.

This one kills me. I use to feel like I “lost” that day if I didn’t write those 1,667 words, even if I did my intended writing session. The fact that I’d used all of my scheduled writing time and still didn’t reach the daily goal made me feel worse. I felt that I’d “wasted” it because I would be starting the next day out at a deficit.

Don’t do this! Allowing yourself to feel like you “didn’t make it” that day will only make you lose momentum, and it will be harder to start writing the next day.

Instead of thinking that you somehow “failed” that day, remind yourself that you showed up and wrote for the amount of time you said promised yourself you would.

Disney Cat GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

If you have a set time to write and you actually sat yourself down and got some words out during that time, then you win for that day.

I’ve learned that word count ebbs and flows during NaNoWriMo. One day you barely make 1,000 and others you write 3,000. Don’t sweat it if you fall behind. You’ll make it up another day.

Be creative in finding time to write.

During my previous NoNoWriMos, I was lucky enough to have a job that went though waves of business, and then would be completely dead, so I would always bring my laptop incase I had some spare time to work on my story.

If you don’t have that luxury, you may still be able to squeeze in some writing time on you lunch break. Of course this depends on how long your break is and how long it takes to get to a nearby restaurant and get your order. You may want to bring your own lunch for this month to give you a bit of extra time.

If writing during lunch isn’t an option, you can still sneak in some “writing.”

For days I knew it would be too busy to bother bringing my laptop out, I could still jot some notes about what might happen in the next scene or add something to a character’s backstory.

It wasn’t adding to my word count, but it did save me some time when I sat down to write later. I would already have some idea how the scene would go, or I wouldn’t have to stop and think why this character would react this way because of the notes I took earlier.

Yeah Right GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

If your job is so demanding that you’re laughing and shaking your head at the thought of even taking a few notes on your phone, don’t sweat it. This is why you have you designated time to write.

Enjoy it!

The most important thing to do during NaNo is to enjoy it. Sure, you are going to have your ups and downs during the month, but overall you should have a deep satisfaction that you are making such huge progress on your WIP.

Enjoy the ride! I’ll be back next week for tips on how to make week two a success. 🙂

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week Two

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week Three

pinterest buttontwitter-buttonInstagram

Want fun and informative writing videos delivered to you every quarter? Join my newsletter!

Overcoming Writer’s Block

 

 

We all love being in the throes of that mystical thing we writers call “flow.” Those moments where hours slip away as we pour out our vividly imagined scenes onto paper (or computer documents).

We revel in these moments somewhat frantically, knowing that they won’t last. Knowing that as beautiful as these moments are, there is another, more sinister side to the coin.

Writer’s block.

It seems to come out of no where. One day you are writing happily along, the next you leave your writing session with nothing to show for your time. Or you can’t even find the motivation to sit at your desk at all.

We ask ourselves the question all writers have or eventually will: How can I keep writing when my writing muse has left?

Sadly, my muse has been cruel enough to leave me as well, so I’ve come up with some ways to get it back.  I’ve also learned that there are at least three reasons why writer’s block has suddenly reared its ugly head.

 

 

There is a problem that needs fixing in your story

Sometimes that feeling of not wanting to write is your subconscious trying to warn you that something isn’t working in your story so you can fix it now instead of plowing through and making a mess that will be difficult to unravel later.

If this is the case, then all we have to do to get our writing muse back is to fix the thing that isn’t working.

Easier said than done, huh? If you knew what wasn’t working, you would have fixed it already and went on happily writing.

If you ask yourself why you don’t feel like writing and you feel that something isn’t working in your story, but you aren’t sure what, don’t panic. All you need to do is ask yourself more questions.

Consulting Detective [MB/S] - GIF Starters - Wattpad

How do I feel about my main character? If she is boring or I just can’t connect with him is the answer then go back to the character-creation drawing board and discover some things about your MC that will make them interesting and help you connect.

If your main character isn’t the issue, then move on to the other characters. If they aren’t the problem, then ask yourself about the plot, the dialogue, the tension (or lack of tension) in the scene you are working on.

There are so many more questions to ask yourself why you feel something is “off” with your story but can’t quite put your finger on what it is. There are so many, that I could write a whole blog post on that alone (and will 🙂 ).

Chances are, there is a good reason your brain seems to have checked out and refuses to write more words. Something is niggling at it, whispering that writing more words at this point is a waste until you fix the problem.

But what if you fix the broken piece of your novel (or find nothing is broken) and you still can’t find the will to write?

 

There is an emotional reason for your writing-related apathy. 

Early this year, I went through months of writer’s block because the project I’d spent a whole year on didn’t turn out as expected. Well, that’s putting it nicely. It turned out to be a disaster. Were there things I could pull from the wreckage to use in creating a new and improved version of the story? Definitely. Did I learn a lot from the process even it the end result wasn’t something publishable? Absolutely.

Was I enthusiastic about starting my next project with all my hard-won wisdom? Absolutely not.

Even though my logical side could see that the experience wasn’t a total loss, that didn’t stop my emotions from reminding me how much time was “wasted” on the project and sending a wave of doom over my next project.

If you find that your writer’s block is because of some less-than-stellar work you did previously or a case of imposter syndrome (where you have crippling self doubt that you can’t produce another book as good as your first), then there isn’t an easy fix. At least I haven’t found one (if you know of one, please share!).

But there are some steps you can take to overcome these emotions.

First, acknowledge that they are there and figure out what thought or belief they are coming from. Then, ask yourself if these thoughts or beliefs are actually true.

If you are afraid that your first novel’s success was a fluke and you won’t be able to writing something like that again, then ask yourself if this is absolutely true. Do you really know that you won’t be able to write another great novel? Is it an absolute truth that the project you are working on will turn out a mess like your last one?

NO. (If you are wondering what the answer is 😉 )

You can’t look into the future and see that this project is doomed for failure (unless you have some powers I don’t know about…in which case, share them with me!). You can, however, ruin your chances at writing a beautiful new story by allowing those thoughts and emotions to control your actions.

Sure, your WIP might end up being one that you shelve at the end, but it also might be one of the best books you’ve written. You will never know if you don’t keep writing it.

But, I get it. NOT feeling like writing is why you are here, so simply telling you to keep writing isn’t that helpful. I have no magic answer for banishing these gloomy emotions, but I do have some ways to get through them.

1.Stop writing. I took a break from writing for a month. Took some time to go back to the basics and read some great books and listen to podcasts on writing. Getting some new information in your head does wonders for those pesky, negative feelings. You might learn the reason your last novel didn’t turn out or learn a new technique that excites you so much, it pushes all those haunting emotions away.

If you are in the middle of NaNoWriMo and don’t want to stop writing, continue to number three. Or, heck, stop writing in the middle of NaNo. Quit NaNo if you need to. It is a means to an end, a tool in your hand. Winning NaNo isn’t the goal itself–finishing your story is–and if you need to take a break to do that, then do it.

Elsa Magic GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

2. Write something new. Maybe you don’t want to take a break from writing altogether, but your current WIP has too many feelings of guilt or trepidation attached to it for you to look at it with fresh eyes. So, take a small break and work on something else. You could do some worldbuilding or create new characters for another project, or you could write a short story. When I am needing a break from my WIP, but I don’t want to start anything new and lengthy, I love to look up writing prompts on Pinterest and free write whatever comes to mind. It is a great exercise that gets your writing muscles moving again.

3. Add something new in your story to get you excited about writing it. A great way to get rid of unwanted emotions is to replace them. Brainstorm some ideas of things you can add to the scene or chapter that you are working on that makes you want to write it. The twist? This doesn’t have to be something you actually want to keep. Make it something completely unexpected and wacky. The crazier, the better. Does a storm come out of no where and blow your character’s ship off course? How would it change your story if the MC’s best friend suddenly died? What if a complete stranger barged their way into the conversation you are writing?

Don’t worry about how a sudden twist might change the plot or derails your story from the outline. You are only adding it to trick your stubborn brain into writing again. You can take whatever happens out in the next draft. Or you may like it and decide to keep it.

I added a new character in act three of my first draft of The Hashna Stone, simply because I didn’t know what to write and needed some spice to keep me going because I was in the middle of NaNoWriMo. I ended keeping her, and she is one of my favorite characters in the book.

Aladin - image #3710076 on Favim.com

You’ve fallen out of infatuation with your story

What if you’ve given your novel a critical look over and done some soul searching and determined that it isn’t a problem in the novel or some deeper emotional reason for your writer’s block?

It may simply be that you are feeling the magical spark of new-story-infatuation fade away. You know the feeling I’m talking about. It’s that obsession you have when you first get an idea, the bubbling excitement as you write your first chapter, the blinding adoration for your main character, and the absolute assurance that this story is going to be the one that gets you the agent of your dreams/lands you a book deal/sells a million copies.

We all go through an infatuation stage with our story. It might last a few weeks, it might last a few months, but however long it lasts it won’t be for the entire duration of your novel.

If your lack of interest is because your story isn’t new and shiny anymore, know that this is perfectly normal. This is the easiest of the reasons fix, because there really isn’t anything to fix.

You just have to keep writing. There will be a moment in your story where you find that spark again. It may be as you write the ending or it might be in draft three when you discovers something that adds that special touch to a character’s arc that you were looking for.

Sloth Slow GIF - Sloth Slow Hahahaha - Discover & Share GIFs

Whatever the reason for you writing apathy–a problem in the novel that needs fixing, hindering beliefs and emotions, or a fading away of new-story infatuation–know that it is temporary.

You are still a writer, even it you don’t feel like writing. Your story is still a work of art, even if you don’t feel it is. Writing is a process that is filled with ups and downs, mistakes and triumphs. No one writes a novel and has nothing but happy, rainbow feelings throughout the process.

Not feeling like writing is normal. Having a muse that leaves you at the most inconvenient times is normal.  Not all writing sessions are moments of “flow” and that is okay.

Figure out why you’ve lost the will to write, try different methods to get over that writer’s block, but whatever you do, don’t give up on your writing because of a season of “dryness” in your writing.

Keep learning. Keep writing. Your muse will be so impressed with your resilience, that they will have no choice but to come back.

pinterest buttontwitter-buttonInstagram

Want fun and informative writing videos delivered to you every quarter? Join my newsletter!

 

 

 

 

 

Three Best Ways to Outline Your Novel

Outlining a novel is a daunting task. When we sit down to write an outline, there are so many questions running through our head. Is it enough to write a sentence for each scene or should I get detailed and write a paragraph? What if I don’t know every scene that is going to happen? Should go back to brainstorming if I don’t know enough to make a detailed outline of every single thing that is going to happen in my novel?

It’s enough to make us freeze up and decide not to write an outline at all.

I wrote my debut novel, The Hashna Stone, without ever creating a formal outline, so for my next writing project, I had to go back to the basics and figure it out.

An outline can be as simple as writing a sentence for each of the major plot points or as detailed as writing a rundown of each scene. With such varied methods, it leaves us wondering which is the “right” way to outline?

The answer: there isn’t a right way to outline.

There are many methods out there and they might all be “right” as long as they work for the individual using them. Outlining is just like novel writing. Each writer has to find the process that works for them by trail and error.

That being said, there are some methods that are tried and true and will get you “the best bang for you buck.” To save you some time so your aren’t stuck trying all the methods out there, I’m sharing the three that I’ve had the most success with.

The Seven Point Story Structure

This method will probably be best for the pantsers out there (writers who don’t like detailed outlines and prefer to fly by the seat of their pants). It can be done relatively quickly and there is no need to come up with every little detail of your story.

For all the plotters out there, it may not be detailed enough for you to use as an outline, but is a useful tool for shaping ideas into a story.

Here’s how it works.

  • The Hook–Answer the question, “What keeps my reader reading after the first few pages?” Write down what it is that will make your reader wonder what happens next.
  • First Plot Point–This is the point of no return for your character (think when Harry finds out that he is a wizard and leaves with Hagrid or when Frodo leaves the Shire).
  • Pinch Point One–This is where something happens to make your character take action.
  • Midpoint–Your character makes the decision to start going after his problem instead of running from it. It dramatically changes the direction your character was going.
  • Pinch Point Two–Whatever is going wrong at this point in the story, make it get even worse. Make it so bad that it seems like the bad guy will actually win.
  • Second Plot Point–This is where your character gets the last bit of information he needed to defeat the villain.
  • Resolution–Defeat the bad guy, resolve the conflicts, and answer all the questions.

I learned about this method from Dan Wells in a podcast by Writing Excuses (give it a listen). It’s really fun and simple to use, making it a wonderful tool for developing ideas into stories early on, but it didn’t quite give me enough information to start writing my first draft.

Enter the 3 act-9 block-27 chapter method… (Yes, it is a mouthful)

3 act – 9 Block – 27 Chapter Method

This method doesn’t just have you come up with major plot points, but  gives you three “blocks” within each act and has you break down each chapter within those blocks.

I was looking for more detail. This method’s middle name is “detail.” In fact, it was a little too detailed for me. I got really excited by the thought that I could have my whole novel so neatly set up before  writing a single word of draft one but, for whatever reason, this method only worked partially for me.

I ended up with a lot of good plot points and a lot more information than if I hadn’t filled out this sheet, but I still didn’t feel ready to write the first draft after this. What I had under a lot of the chapters  were single lines like “they come up with a plan to escape” or “plan successful.” It wasn’t enough to tell me what exactly happened in each chapter. When I tried to figure it out, my mind went blank and I lost interest.

For the most part, I really liked this method, but I still felt like something was missing.

(This article explains this method in much more detail)

The 15 Beat Story Structure 

I didn’t stumble on this method until early this year, but I fell in love with it the moment I discovered it in a screenwriting book, Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder. He suggests using notecards to come up with each beat, and even thought I’d used notecards before, the combination between them and this method worked like magic for me.

Act 1 / The Beginning

  1. Opening Image (0% to 1%) – A single scene beat that shows a “before” snapshot of the protagonist and the flawed world that he or she lives in.
  2. Theme Stated (5%) – A single scene beat in which a statement is made by someone (other than the protagonist) that hints at what the protagonist will learn before the end of the story.
  3. Setup (1% to 10%) – A multi-scene beat in which the reader gets to see what the protagonist’s life and the world are like–flaws and all.
  4. Catalyst (10%) – Inciting incident
  5. Debate (10% to 20%) – A multi-scene beat where the protagonist debates what he or she will do next.
  6. Break Into Two (20%) – Something big happens to make hero DECIDE to go to act 2.

 Act 2A / The Middle (Part 1)

  1. B Story (22%) – A single scene beat that introduces a new character or characters who will ultimately serve to help the hero learn the theme.
  1. Fun and Games (20% to 50%) – A multi-scene beat where the reader gets to see the protagonist either shinning or floundering in their new world.
  1. Midpoint (50%) –a “false victory” or “false fail.”

Act 2B / The Middle (Part 2)

  1. Bad Guys Close In (50% to 75%) – 
  1. All is Lost (75%) – Seems like total defeat (usually death happens)
  1. Dark Night of the Soul (75% to 80%) – A multi-scene beat in which the protagonist takes time to process everything that’s happened so far. 
  1. Break Into Three (80%) – Hero realizes what they must do to overcome

 Act 3 / The End

  1. Finale (80% to 99%)– A multi-scene beat where the protagonist proves they have learned the story’s theme.
  1. Final Image (99% to 100%) (Should be the opposite of what the opening scene shows)

When using other methods, trying to come up with more than the most important plot points before having the first draft written left me feeling like I was hopeless at plotting or outlining (at one point, I was convinced that I was a pantser).

Suddenly plotting an outline went from something I mostly dreaded and struggled with to something I was excited to do.

This doesn’t mean that it is the best way to outline. It is just the one that clicked with me. I will probably continue using all three at some stage in the brainstorming/plotting process, but this is the one I use to get a more complete understanding of my story before I start drafting.

(Check out this blog post for a deeper explanation on how to use these plot points. I must have visited 50 times while plotting my novel.  😀 )

So while there may not be one “right” way to outline, there is a “right” way out there for you. You just have to find it.

I hope one of these methods will be yours. Try them all out with an old story you tossed aside or with your current work in progress and see what works for you. Who knows, maybe you will create your own hybrid outlining method. 🙂

Have you heard or tried of any of these methods before? What is your favorite way to plot/outline?

pinterest buttontwitter-buttonInstagram

Want cool writing videos delivered to you every quarter? Join my newsletter!

The Most Important Thing You are Missing as an Author

Hey Epic Dreamers!

Do you ever feel like you are missing something in your writing journey? You have great ideas, you’ve studied the craft, you’ve put in the writing time, or maybe you’ve even published a book. But for some reason you still don’t feel like a real writer.

I saw an interview with Rachel Hollis the other day that made me realize there was a part of this being an author thing that I was missing that wasn’t the prose, the plot, or the characters. While studying the craft and knowing how to flawlessly weave these elements into a story is important, there is another element that is crucial to whether we will achieve our writing goals.

The Stages of Making ADRs, As Told By Disney Princess Gifs – Fairy God  Bloggers

That element is the mindset of the author.  Whether our dream is to be a best-selling author or to indie publish a collection of short stories, our success in achieving those goals is determined by our mindset. Our mindset is also what can hold us back from success, even if it is our most sought after goal.

Authors (or maybe just creative types in general) have a tendency to downplay their achievements and dreams. I know I do!

We may downplay our actual goals for our writing, telling family members or friends that it is “just something I play around with” because, we are afraid that they will judge us. We are afraid they will think we are arrogant for thinking that our writing is, or could ever be, that good or that they will laugh at us for taking a career in writing seriously.

As Rachel Hollis said, “None of us can step forward into who we are called to be because we are too worried about what [others] think of us.” 

 

What she said in her interview made me realize that there was no shame in having a dream, no matter how big it is. 

Believe you are ready to shine disney tiana

If you’ve struggled with taking your writing goals seriously or struggled with sharing you dreams of being an author with others, then take a moment to give yourself permission to dream. If you are feeling stuck with your writing it may not be because you haven’t read enough books on writing or because your plot isn’t exciting enough. It may simply be because you’ve hidden away the author side of you so much that it doesn’t dare to come out, even for you.

If you have a dream, don’t waste time being ashamed of it.  🙂

“I do not care what other people think of me for having dreams and goals for myself.” –Rachel Hollis

***I’ve started a monthly newsletter where I share videos that inspire me as a writer (ones like the interview with Rachel Hollis). They are short and to the point and only once a month, so I’m not spamming you to death. 😛

Saving the Cat Saved My Story

Hey Epic Dreamers!

Has it really been two months since I’ve posted? Yikes! I should be fired.

I’ve been in a bit of a writing rut for the last month or so. Maybe it’s the cold weather or the COVID craziness or simply because I’ve been working on the same story for roughly a year and not feeling like I’ve gotten anywhere with it, but I just can’t drudge up the energy to write (on the story or here).

Then I really had an “all is lost” moment when I received feedback on my WIP from my alpha reader and was attempting to use her suggestions to fix my story when began to notice even more in the story that needed fixing. I realized that it was such a mess that I wasn’t even sure it was worth salvaging and was seriously considering tossing it aside and moving on to something else.

Mean Girls Burn Book GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

At the same time I had this dark revelation, a book I had ordered from the library, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, happened to arrive. I decided to push thoughts of my broken story out of my head and spend some time learning about the craft.

When I got to the section on the 15 beat story structure, everything began to click into place. I suddenly understood why things weren’t working in my story and, most importantly, how to fix them.

It wasn’t that the overall idea of the story was bad. It was simply that I didn’t have the right tool to transform the story into what it needed to be.  I felt like a builder hopelessly staring at a bunch of  scattered boards and nails, unsure of what to do until someone placed a hammer in my hand.

Hammer Nail GIF - Hammer Nail Spongebob - Discover & Share GIFs

After learning this way of plotting, I have made the painful decision to scrap my manuscript and completely  rewrite it.  I am going back to “ground zero” and going through the brainstorming/plotting stage with it and looking at it as if it were a completely new story that just happens to have the same characters and overall idea.

It was emotionally draining to realize that three drafts and months of work had to be scrapped, but it was also energizing to have found a way of plotting that finally clicked, jelled with me, synergized with my way of thinking about a story.

I bought a huge cork board and am covering it with index cards that represent each scene just as Snyder suggested. It’s been a lot of fun and I am actually excited about my story again and can see how the choices I’m making with the plot now will make it a much better story.

So, I guess I said all that to say, that’s my excuse for not posting in a while. 😉

Why Do You Bring Me Excuses GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

I hope you all have been doing well, and I’d love to know how your writing projects are going (hopefully better than mine).

Also, I am starting a monthly newsletter where I will share fun, inciteful writing videos. Join us to get this month’s letter which will have a breakdown of the 15 beat story structure using Interstellar as an example. 

I’ll be sending it tomorrow!

 

How I Got Over my Month-Long Writer’s Block

After reading the print out of my first draft, I sat down to start on the second draft…and immediately became overwhelmed.

There was so much I wanted to add: relationships between characters needed strengthening, story threads needed to be woven tighter together, new scenes added, old scenes revised. The list seemed never-ending.

Because I had pantsed my way through the first draft, I knew that I would have to rewrite every chapter to get it the way that I wanted it. At first, this idea was exciting because I was looking forward to adding in all the fun ideas I’d had while reading through the first draft, but as I began writing chapter one again I got these overwhelming feelings of lethargy. I felt like I was walking in circles—like I’d beaten a game only to have it crash and make me start back at square one.

I realized that I would have to do more than just add in some things and rewrite some paragraphs here and there. I would have to completely rewrite ever single chapter.

Chapter one suddenly seemed more daunting than when I was starting from scratch.

It didn’t help that I had this huge list of things that I wanted to accomplish in the first chapter. There were so many world-building elements I wanted to add, characters I wanted introduced, back stories and tension between characters that I wanted to hint at. Making the list was helpful, but having it loom above me while trying to write the first chapter made me feel more like I was writing a college essay than a story.

So there I was, barley a chapter into my second draft, and the only feelings I had were a sense of starting at ground zero after months of work, and the nagging feeling to make it perfect this time through so there wouldn’t be so much to add in the next draft.

Working on the story left me feeling frustrated and frustration dried up any creativity which might have helped me out…which left me more discouraged and frustrated.

I kept thinking that it was just a faze and I’d snap out of it, but my writing sessions were pitifully unproductive and I started wanting to write less and less.

Finally, I got tired of waiting for my writer’s block to leave me and sat down at my lap top determined to figure out WHY I had writer’s block in the first place.  Everyone goes through times where their writing sessions are sluggish or they are a little lethargic…but a month of no writing? Yikes!

First I figured out everything I wrote above. I realized that I was putting too much pressure on myself to be mostly finished with this story when the second draft (at least for a pantser) is basically just the first draft since the first draft was simply me figuring the story out and serves as more of an outline than a first draft. (Why do I have to be a pantser? Seems like a curse.)

Instead of focusing on all the little details that needed to be added in and trying to fit them in at just the right place with just the right wording, I needed to continue focusing on the big picture and overall flow of the story just as I did in the first draft.

I was feeling bored and frustrated with it because I was trying to get everything set in place and nailed down too soon.

I was allowing myself to get bogged down with the dos and don’ts of story writing—looking at it like a list of boxes I had to check— instead of simply continuing to let the story tell itself, which for me still means keeping those concepts in mind but still letting the characters and theme drive the story.

One of the reasons I love writing the first draft so much is because of the dream-like quality it has for me, the sense that anything can happen, and the excitement of getting to know the characters and world. Writing those first drafts are a lot like smearing paint in colorful blobs on a canvas: anyone watching will see meaningless shapes, but the artist sees the overall picture, including the details he will add later.

I was trying to make my second draft like a math equation: Perfectly formulated character arc + perfect place for back story + every detail given in the “right spot” = a perfect story.

While there are times to evaluate a story like an equation to find what’s going wrong or what aspect could be strengthened, that approach simply wasn’t working for me at that stage. I needed to let surprises happen, start writing without knowing exactly where the scene was going, and begin a chapter without looking too closely at how the first draft of that chapter was written.

In short, I had to pretend that this was the first draft and—to keep from feeling like the first draft was a complete waste of time—pretend that the actual first draft was a messy, overly-detailed outline.

If you are reading this because you a struggling with a case of writer’s block and are hoping for a magic “trick” to help you out of it, I’m sorry to say that I don’t have one. There are so many reasons for writer’s block and what works once to get you out of writer’s block three months ago may not work for you in your current state of writer’s block.

But what helped me get out of this particularly long slump is something that can get you started on writer’s-block recovery even if it doesn’t cure it outright. I had to let go of how far along I thought my story should be—stop looking at it like a puzzle with a thousand frustrating pieces—and look at it as an adventure I get to go on every day. Some days are tough, but some days bring me the most beautiful scenery.

The only magic trick that can cure writer’s block is rediscovering that magic that drew you to the story in the first place. Find that spark that ignited the idea—a character, a scene, an aspect of the world—and focus on refining or expanding that character or idea until whatever is blocking your flow is forced to melt away.

——————————————————–

I’m excited to announce that The Hashna Stone has been selected for the book cover contest on allauthor.com!

The winning book gets some pretty sweet prizes, including free advertising.

It would help me out so much if you clicked the link below and voted! My book needs to stay in the top 100 covers in order to go to the next round.

Thanks friends!!! 🙂

VOTE FOR THE HASHNA STONE