The Character Who Wants you to Wait

By Patricia Friedrich

I don’t like to stare at the blank page. And typically I don’t.

When writing either fiction or non-fiction, I usually take a bit of time thinking in an unstructured manner about what I am going to write. Ideas come to me while I do the dishes, when I walk, or as I work on something else. I rarely take notes on them. When I feel ready, I sit down and start writing, usually quite linearly. Some days are more productive, others less so, but once I sit down to write, I usually write. I tend to reach that stage already having a good sense of who my character is, although she will usually turn out to be more multifaceted as we further our acquaintance. As a pantser, I let things happen and often find that a character, put in a given situation, will reveal themselves anyway.

Not this time. I have now met my first character who wants me to wait.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)It's always our selfwe find in the sea..png

I know the basic facts about her: where she was born, what she does for a living, who her parents are. But she is a quiet one, and she is taking her time before telling me more. So while  I wait, I am looking for clues in others who have some of her traits—in movies, in books, in life. What can these other characters share with me that will allow me to know my own character better?

Sometimes it is a gesture, something in their eyes. Other times it is a belief or a like. Of course none of them is her, but they offer me hints, or little pieces of this jigsaw puzzle. Building her has become a bit like waiting for wine to reach its perfect season, when complexity of aroma and subtlety in tastes are at their peak.

This is something we are getting increasingly unaccustomed to. Our culture is one of immediate action, immediate response, no delayed gratification, no patience, no waiting. Digital modes have trained our brains to want to know everything and to want to know it all now! In the 1960s and 1970s, psychologist Walter Mischel became well known for his Stanford Marshmallow Experiment in which children were given one marshmallow and told that if they waited, without eating it, until the researcher came back into the room (usually 15 minutes later), they could have another marshmallow (or sometimes a cookie or pretzel). The test correlated the ability to wait for a bigger reward later to various measures of success in future life.

Would we all fail the marshmallow test now?

Maybe this character is my own marshmallow experiment. She is asking me to give it time at the moment for a better outcome later. And like the good student I am, I’m going to wait.

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Patricia Friedrich is a Professor of English (Linguistics/Rhetoric and Composition) at Arizona State University. She is an expert in the spread of English throughout the world, a researcher of peace in relation to language, and the author/editor of six books, including The Sociolinguistics of Digital Englishes and award-winning The Literary and Linguistic Construction of Obsessive-compulsive Disorder. She has written many chapters in other books and articles in such periodicals as Harvard Business Review and World Englishes. Her short fiction has appeared in literary journals such as The Linnet’s Wings, Birkensnake, and Gray Sparrow. Her novel manuscript, The Art of Always, won first prize in the “Realizing the Dream” competition as a mainstream fiction work (RWA’s Desert Rose Chapter). She is represented by TZLA Literary and Film Agency and lives in the greater Phoenix area with her family.

How To Write As A Stay-At-Home Parent

SAHM writer

The year I felt profoundly moved to pursue publication for my novels was—you guessed it—the same year that I got pregnant (after years of infertility, too, which makes it doubly ironic). I jumped into the querying game when my daughter was barely a year old, and sold my first book not long after her third birthday. From the beginning, I’ve been building my professional career around my mothering… and when my daughter hit two and stopped napping, I panicked, knowing that I had to figure out a way to become more efficient and write in the small chunks of time I was able to snatch here or there, or else I would be kissing my writing dreams goodbye.

That year I spent a lot of time studying up on ways to boost my output and write in short bursts off and on throughout the day. By the end of the year, I’d completed my new book, almost never writing for longer than half an hour at a time. By the next summer, I’d sold that book, and now—two years later—I’ve successfully edited my debut novel, written another novel and a half, and dealt with the myriad of other tasks that come with being a pre-publication professional novelist.

Often, people ask me about the mysterious tips that helped me shift my work style to accommodate writing once my kid stopped napping, so I thought that I’d share them here!

  1. I switched from pantsing to plotting. Before 2015, I was a DIEHARD pantser, the kind who felt like plotting took the creative energy from a project and killed all originality. But when my daughter was a toddler, I realized that I was completely miserable with the way I was writing; it took me about a thousand words to feel like I was hitting my stride and really taking my story in the right direction, and since I almost never had time to sit down and write a thousand words in a row—let alone anything more than that!!!—it felt like all of my writing time was just arduous and unpleasant. In 2015, I took a class from Melanie Jacobson about increasing productivity, and she talked about how she’d adapted the Rachel Aaron plotting method for use as a busy mom. I blogged about how I outline now in a series of posts here and here. In particular, briefly blocking out scenes before I write them gives a really invaluable tool to help guide me right back into a scene if I’ve had to leave off writing in the middle of it, so that I can be truly productive even if all I manage to snatch are a few ten-minute increments throughout the day. This method also majorly boosted my wordcount, so that I can now knock out a thousand words in about half an hour (sometimes even less) if I’ve done enough prep work before.
  2. I learned how to work well even if the setting wasn’t what I’d prefer. I’m the kind of person whose brain peaks around mid-morning. I’m not a night owl, and by the end of the day, honestly, all I want to do is curl up with a good book or Netflix and let my brain take a break. But when my daughter was little, I read this wonderful series of blog posts on living a creative life with children, and it was transformative. One of the things that it said was that a crucial part of being able to be a creative person as a parent was to learn to work in sub-optimal times and places, even if that’s not naturally the way you’d prefer to work. I knew that was the wake-up call I needed, and I took it to heart. I started practicing writing at night a few times each week, after my daughter had gone to bed, making myself churn out at least five hundred words before I could stop and do something else. Over time, working in sub-optimal conditions became more and more natural. And, sure enough, my overall word output went much higher!
  3. Set a schedule… and make sure it has time for relaxing, too. Around the same time, my husband—who is a software engineer and loves creating programs and websites in addition to his day job—and I came up with the idea of a weekly schedule of “work nights” and “[TV] watch nights.” We realized that we’d started defaulting to watching TV together every night because we were too tired to work, and we wanted to change that. Ever since then, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday have been our designated “work nights,” and the rest of the nights are “watch nights.” We’re only allowed to skip work nights in cases of illness, injury, or holidays. (We also, of course, will often work other times; when one of us is trying to get something finished, we’ll either skip a watch night or work for an hour before loading up Netflix. These three nights, though, are the minimum we’re allowed to work each week.) Combined with the changes I made in step #1 and step #2, this schedule has been really effective for me. It’s honestly amazing what you can get done in a few dedicated one- to two-hour stretches throughout the week. These days, I’m usually able to carve out thirty or so minutes of writing time most mornings, as well, but for a long time these three nights a week were the only consistent time I had to work, and I still managed to get all of my debut novel written in the space of a few months.
  4. When all else fails—get a babysitter! This fall, I hit a patch of intense deadline-crunching for my debut, where I was working for hours every day and still not quite getting as much done as I needed to. I hired a local teen to come play with my daughter (sometimes while I was around, sometimes while I went to the library to work there) for a few hours on a couple different afternoons, and it was just what I needed to get that extra work in. Plus, going to the library felt like this HUGE luxury—so much quiet! Nobody asking me for anything! If you’ve tried everything else and just are not able to fit in enough work time, try a babysitter, a preschool, or a babysitting trade-off. You might be amazed by how much your productivity increases merely by not having any other responsibilities! (And if you’re in a pinch? I promise, a little bit of TV time won’t kill the kids!)

Balancing parenting and writing is tricky—and for a long time, I felt like it was impossible. I’m glad to have been proved wrong!

Cindy Baldwin is a fiction writer, essayist, and poet. She grew up in North Carolina and still misses theadshot1he sweet watermelons and warm accents on a daily basis. As a middle schooler, she kept a book under her bathroom sink to read over and over while fixing her hair or brushing her teeth, and she dreams of writing the kind of books readers can’t bear to be without. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter, surrounded by tall trees and wild blackberries. Her debut novel, Where The Watermelons Grow, is forthcoming from HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2018. Find her online at http://www.cindybaldwinbooks.com and on Twitter @beingcindy.

 

Mind Mapping: A Pantser’s Path to Planning the Perfect Story

I don’t plot. I don’t outline. I don’t even do character sketches. And the irony with that … I’m a planner with everything else in my life. I’ve never met a project, a trip, a day that I didn’t plan to the last detail. Seriously.

I have objectives for each month, then weekly tasks and every morning, I make my to-do-for-the-day list. Each new project starts life as a shiny Gantt chart. My brain is always two steps ahead, calculating how to go from here to there, anticipating roadblocks and thinking through potential detours.

You’d think my compulsion to plan would lead to careful plotting of stories. Nope.

A story idea will come at me—sometimes it’s a title, sometimes an event, sometimes an object—then bounce around, collecting more details like a dust bunny grabbing at every strand of hair in the living room until it’s fully formed and ready to move out on its own.

The control-freak side of me wants to be okay with the squiggly-squirrel side. Sometimes they play nice, most times they bicker like spoiled kids. But I found a compromise … one that the controlling side sees as an organizational tool, and one that the squiggly side sees as play time.

Say hello to my friend, Mind Mapping.

main-character

Mind mapping is a thinking tool that goes with the flow of the thought process rather than forcing those thoughts into a linear order. It’s creative and visual and perfect for brains that have a tendency toward the squirrel story threads. I heard it once described as “the little Swiss-army knife for the brain.” That was all I needed!

There are plenty of mind mapping software options to choose from (some paid, some free, depending on the features you want) or you can freehand with different color markers and a large sheet of paper (or white board). Whatever works best for you.

I prefer software that’s easy to drag and drop and move and tweak. Although I used crayons and poster board for a picture book once and had so much fun!

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Here are a couple of pointers that have worked for this non-linear thinker:

Brain dump.

The idea behind a mind mapping session is not to detail the story plan but to empty your brain of details for the story. Order doesn’t matter. Whatever comes to mind, whenever it comes to mind, put it down. Link it to other ideas or details as the connections become clear.

At this stage, the items you jot down don’t need to have clear lines to others but they do need to inspire parts of the story. As you start digging a bit deeper into each one, you’ll discover how each relates to the other pieces. And you’ll add additional twigs to each new branch of your map.

Don’t tie yourself to one way of doing your map. Maybe you start with individual words or couple of words. For example, maybe there’s an anecdote between two characters that jumped to mind or a description of an object or place. Put those down as they came to you, don’t try to force them into the one or three word bubbles to match the others. Everything is fair game!

The more the merrier.

When you create an outline for your story, you have one outline. Mind mapping doesn’t have to be just one map per story. You’re not trying to organize your thoughts, you’re releasing them. If one bubble sparks an a-ha moment, give it it’s own map. See where it takes you.

For the novel I’m currently working on (scheduled for release summer 2018), I have several maps. One for the main character, including details about her (physical appearance, job, hobbies, etc) and the people surrounding her; and one for the secrets each character has and how the connect to the other people in the book.

Think of mind mapping as the hot air balloon vision for your story. It takes you out of the forest of details and puts you up high above the treetops, to see the whole of the wooded space and all the cute little story squirrels scampering around in there.

Interestingly enough, I’m a linear writer. I have to start at the beginning and work through to the end of the story. I never fully know the end until I get there. With mind mapping, I get the big picture idea for my story, I have random details and an understanding for how each fits with the others—I have the map to guide me through the forest. I may still veer off a path in pursuit of another squirrel, but I know that to get to the end of my trek, I’ll have to get back on the main path.

If you’re not a plotter, not a linear thinker, give mind mapping a shot. It’s an organic, visual thought process that appeals to right brainers. Most mind mapping software have the ability to turn the visual brainstorming into a linear outline. That’s a bonus if you need to turn in an outline (or expand it into a synopsis) to your agent or editor.

I’d love to hear from pantsers and plotters how you approach the brainstorming process. Are you a linear thinker or a visual thinker? What tools or processes help you capture your ideas?
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orlyOrly Konig is an escapee from the corporate world where she spent roughly sixteen (cough) years working in the space industry. Now she spends her days chatting up imaginary friends, drinking entirely too much coffee, and negotiating writing space around two over-fed cats. She is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association , and an active member of Writers In The Storm blog and Tall Poppy Writers. She is represented by Marlene Stringer of Stringer Literary. Her debut women’s fiction, The Distance Home, will be released from Forge in May 2017. You can find her online at www.orlykoniglopez.com or on GoodreadsTwitterFacebook, and Pinterest

Losing Your Voice and Finding It Again

I recently started an MFA in writing for children and young adults. It’s expensive, and I knew if I was going to commit the time and money to it that I wanted to get the most out of it. And so I thought hard about how to do that.

The first thing I decided was that it didn’t make a lot of sense to go into the program doing the same old things I’ve always done with my writing. It seems like if that was super working for me, I’d have met all my publishing goals by now. But I haven’t, and so I wanted to challenge everything about my process to see what I learned.

Challenge #1: Write a different genre. I’ve only tried YA before so I thought I’d give middle grade a shot and see what I learned.

Challenge #2: I only work on one project at a time. So I started a second simultaneous project. And in the spirit of Challenge 1, since I only do contemporary, I decided to also try a YA historical. Um, fantasy. Just for good measure.

Challenge #3: Ditch the outline. Because I always outline.

Challenge #4: Skip beta readers. I use beta readers pretty exhaustively before my stuff goes to my editor, so I decided to still revise my work but send it straight to my advisor with no outside input.

Challenge #5: Forget about my audience. I always think of who my audience is. For me, I’ve learned that I can’t get anything into the hands of kids unless I get it through my agent first, and then past an editor. And so I’ve thought about what they might be looking for, how they want to hear things. So I resolved to quit thinking about the pub pros and think only about the story and what it was telling me I needed.

So the semester has finished and I have much to think about.

Did becoming my opposite author-self lead to a growth stunt or a growth spurt?

Challenge #1: Writing a different genre. The middle grade story was a fun experiment. It was cool to think about how the problems confronting a twelve-year-old are significantly different than those confronting the sixteen-year-old protagonists I usually craft. It forced me to think about character motivation and why kids do what they do.

The real eye-opener was the YA historical fantasy. Playing in a different era meant following a new set of social rules, and having to consider how every choice I made as author closed or opened paths in the rest of the story. I’m used to the rhythm of romantic comedies. It’s become almost second nature to me to know what each of my character’s words or actions signal. I know what it sets up for later, and I understand the consequences of everything. But that’s the thing: It really is second nature. I lost that luxury by writing a totally different genre. As a result, the story was far more thoughtfully constructed, and it became a delicious sort of brain exercise to chase down different imaginary trails before choosing the right one.

Challenge #2: Work on simultaneous projects. I already knew that I loved switching between genres. If I finished an adult romantic comedy, then I tackled a YA novel next. It makes my brain happy. But I felt this even more intensely as I worked on these two projects. It’s like alternating cardio with strength-training instead of doing stupid kickboxing aerobics all the time. And switching back and forth kept them both fresh and interesting to me.

Challenge #3: Ditch the outline. I started out as a discovery writer or “pantser”—someone who writes by the seat of their pants with no clear plan. And I loved it, but I learned for my own mental health that I had to outline if I had a prayer of hitting my publishing deadlines. To go back to my original state, to the discovery—it was magic. It was really fun to just show up to work and see what would happen, and it reinvigorated my creativity. I don’t think I could do it for my regular deadlines, but that renewal of creativity and rediscovering the fun of writing was possibly worth the price of admission.

Challenge #4: Skip beta readers. I did it. I revised and then let it appear, wart-riddled and everything, in front of my advisor. Who is Kind of a Big Deal. That allowed him to see a little bit more inside my process, to see where my ideas came from and what they turned into, and to figure out exactly where to step in a coach me. I don’t necessarily see this as something that I would do in my professional writing life, but it was great in terms of the school process. I still think when working toward publication that putting your polished work in front of beta readers is best.

Challenge #5: Forget about my audience. This is where I was least successful. I couldn’t quite silence the voice in my head that would say, “If it’s good enough, maybe I can sell it and THAT will help pay for school.” But I tried to shut that voice up. I tried not to think of what my agent would like, or what kind of submissions editors want to see. I even tried to ignore what a current twelve- or sixteen-year-old might find interesting. Instead, I focused on what I would have loved at twelve and sixteen, what I would have found interesting, not what adults think is interesting for kids. And to some extent, that allowed me to think less about literary conventions and just what’s purely cool. And once again, I felt that surge in creativity, that sense of looking forward to going back to work on a manuscript each new day.

I don’t know if I’m going to finish either of these stories. And I guess that’s Challenge #6: I’ve never written something just to write it, never churned out 100 pages only to walk away from it. So maybe it’s time to do that too, to go find a new story to tell, see what it teaches me, and then when I’ve experimented and had a few failures purely for the sake of learning, I can sit down to craft a winner again. But I suspect what I’ve learned more than anything is that it must be a story that satisfies my soul to write, whether it’s booger jokes or Antebellum New Orleans. As long as I care, as long as there’s joy in the work even when it’s not always fun in the day-to-day, I might catch lightning by the tail some day.

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Melanie Bennett Jacobson is an avid reader, amateur cook, and champion shopper. She consumes astonishing amounts of chocolate, chick flicks, and romance novels. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three kids and a series of doomed houseplants. Melanie is a former English teacher who loves to laugh and make others laugh. In her down time (ha!), she writes romantic comedies for Covenant and maintains her humorous slice-of-life blog. Her sixth novel, Always Will, hits shelves in October. Melanie’s contemporary YA novels are represented by Alyssa Henkin.

On Writing Stress and Silver Linings: Why Daily Word Counting Isn’t a Good Strategy for Everyone

How many of you writers find yourselves obsessing about word counts while writing?
 Word counts, word counts, word counts.
(Current blog post word count: 24. Make that 27. 28….)
I’ve been working on the last book of my YA trilogy since last summer. Before I started, my projected word count was 100K (based on my other books in the series). Since last summer, I struggled with the process of drafting for the following reason: 

When I started writing this book, I had a basic synopsis and an outline (a rough outline because I’m actually a pantser writer at heart). I had a plan. I had a daily word count goal. I was ready to go. I planned to be done by December.

I wasn’t where I wanted to be in November, so I joined National Novel Writing Month to help motivate me to write more every day. But I struggled to get those daily word counts. I did wind up writing about 28K, which was decent considering that November is one of the busiest months for me at work. But I stressed over word counts the entire time when I saw I was “below the curve.” Every day I got a little report of my progress and how much I needed to write to “win,” and the number of words I had to write each day kept increasing as the month went on.

(BTW, if you don’t know what I mean by being “below the curve, it looks a lot like this:)

(my actual sucky word count graph from Nov. 2014)

I joined a FB writing challenge in January and did something similar. I set a monthly goal of writing another 30K and was given a lovely spreadsheet to keep track of my daily word counts. I continued to struggle to make my daily goals (I think I reached it once). I joined sprints and reported word counts after 30 minutes averaging 200-300 when others were reporting 800+.

At this point, I was staring at my deadlines in the eye and approaching official panic mode…

…until I decided to stop keeping track of daily word counts.

Why?

Because I don’t write that way.

My writing style is not amenable to these sorts of daily word count challenges. Don’t get me wrong. I love to cheer on my friends as they report their counts. I’m happy that this works for them. However, it doesn’t always work for me. I tend to write and revise simultaneously (something the NaNoWriMo experts specifically advise against). But as I mentioned above, I am really a pantser at heart and so I often discover new twists in my story that I didn’t know about when I wrote my “outline.” I often go back and layer in shiny new things as I draft. I often go back and do what some of my friends describe as “tinkering” with various elements of the story. As a result, I am a very pokey writer.

There’s a silver lining to all of this.

Last weekend, I reached the point where I felt like I could finally start getting my MS ready for beta readers. In preparation for revisions, I cracked my knuckles, put on my revision hat, and started on chapter one. By the end of one weekend, I had flown through revisions on over 20 chapters (approximately 63K words). I had revised so much while drafting that I only needed to change minor things during my revisions. I was ecstatic, and even more than that, I was relieved. I’ve had editors tell me in the past that my “first drafts” are more equivalent to fourth or fifth drafts because I revise and polish as I go. I knew this, but after seeing myself beneath the curve for so many months, I’d forgotten.

So here’s the take-home message from all of this:

Embrace the unique type of writer that you are.

You have your own style and process as a writer, and this process may even change for you from MS to MS. This was my story, and yours may be different. No matter what, don’t feel like you have to compare yourself (or your word counts) to others. I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy looking at a graph of projected word counts and seeing myself be under the curve. I like progress as much as any other writer, and I believe in being accountable for my progress. But from now on, it will be on my own terms.

Update: My MS is currently sitting at 107K words, and I arrived at that word count in my own way.

Happy writing! Here’s to silver linings for all of you! 

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Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both urban fantasy and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of YA urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL (coming 2015) and NA contemporary romance LOSING ENOUGH. She is also one of the authors of the YA/NA crossover anthology LOSING IT.

Confessions of an Ex-Pantser

I’ve always been a pantser. Always. I don’t plan my stories out at ALL before writing them – I start out with a basic concept and let the characters and plot unfold as I go.  Even in elementary school, when they introduced the concept of pre-writing and story boarding, I would do the absolute minimal amount of work that I could get away with on the assignment because I hated doing it so much. Hated it with a passion.

I. Do not. Outline.

Partly this is because, to me, outlining has always intimidated me. Somehow being able to figure out everything about a story before I’ve written a word of it seems like an impossible task. What’s plot pinch one going to be? I don’t know! I haven’t written it yet! I’ll find out when I get there! But I’m sure if I just sat down and thought about it, I could figure it out. So though intimidation is a reason, it’s not the MAIN reason. No, if I’m being truly honest with myself, the main reason I don’t outline is because I’m impatient. When I have an idea I’m excited about, I want to dive right in and make it happen. I want to see my entire story come to fruition, like, yesterday. I want to close my eyes, and think at my computer and have all the beautiful images in my head magically appear as words on the screen, instantaneously. Quick, before I forget where I was going with that plot thread that gave me such an adrenaline rush only moments ago.

Obviously, this is impractical, not to mention impossible, so the next best thing for me has always been to just start writing. And you know what? That worked with my last manuscript. There were many chapter do-overs and a whole mess of revisions to do, but it worked. Eventually. It has worked with short stories as well.

That’s not the case this time. Nope, now I sit down to write and I just . . . I don’t know where to take the characters next. I need a PLAN. So I’m doing the thing that I’ve always hated. I’m making myself take the time to outline—thoroughly—before charging ahead with my draft.  And you know what? I’m (ugh, this is hard to admit) I’m really, sort of, um, well . . . okay fine. I’m enjoying it.

You guys. I think I might not be a pantser anymore.

Wow, that was hard to say. But I get it now. I really do. It’s taken me a long time to learn, but I understand now why plotters outline. I’m not saying that it’s a better process. But it’s a DIFFERENT process and worth a try if whatever you’re doing right now isn’t working for you.

After much research (ok, skimming some articles here and there on the internet because, like I said, I’m impatient), I’ve found that there are many different ways to outline your novel. The method I’m using sort of developed organically as I combined a few different things and fiddled with them . . . I guess you could say, I pantsed it. Basically, I outlined in steps. If you want to give it a try, here’s how you do it, the main idea being that you start with broad strokes, then layer in the details.

Step 1: Identify your CCRs

That’s Character, Conflict, and Resolution. Who are your main characters? Is there a villain? Who is it? What will the protagonists have to overcome? And how do you want things to be resolved by the very end? Boom, that’s it. If that’s all you need, stop right there and go write. I needed more than that, so I moved on to . . .

Step 2: Find Your Beats

Next, download some beat sheets and fill them out. I started with Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat,” then used that to fill out the more detailed “Master Beat Sheet” that combines “Save the Cat” and Larry Brook’s “Story Engineering” beat sheets. They and several others can be found here.  Again, I started with broad strokes, then layered. I almost stopped here, but after thinking about it, I decided I still needed a bit more guidance.

Step 3: Chapter by Chapter

Once you have all your main plot points and beats figured out, start planning out your chapters. I used outlining mode in Scrivener because it lets me view multiple bits of information pertaining to each chapter at once without it feeling cluttered or overwhelming. I’ve set up columns for the POV (I have two POVs to keep track of in this one, and I want to make sure they get equal attention), chapter name, chapter summary (or the goal of the chapter if I haven’t figured out how that goal will be reached yet), my word count target, (or what range it should fall within according to the beat sheets), and the beat or section of the story each chapter falls under. You could probably do this with an Excel sheet as well. Here’s a screenshot of what mine looks like (with spoilers covered up):

That’s as far as I’ve gone at the moment. After this, I might go into each chapter and do a more detailed sequence of events. Or I might just start writing. I haven’t decided yet. But the main thing to remember, and the thing that I think was my sticking point before, is that even after all this, the outline can be changed. If something happens as I’m writing that makes me want to take the story a different direction, I’m not stuck with what I’ve already planned. I can re-adjust things. So in the end, there may still be a little bit of pantsing going on. I like to think of it as pantsing with a plan. Yes, I know that doesn’t make sense, but it makes this pantser feel better, okay?

Have you ever had to make a dramatic change to your writing process? What did you do? Did it work?

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When she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.