As a writer when I am working on one of my novels I have to write down ideas as I get them and work to maintain a tunnel vision in regards to my story at hand or else I would never finish it. The ideas range to changes or additions to the story I am working on, or completely new ideas of stories. When I think I may have a completely new story idea, I treat it like a blog post where I start with the dreaded blank sheet and put down my ideas, thoughts, and possible scenes – whatever I have at that moment. Then I save it and forget about it. If other ideas come along related to one of my story ideas I haven’t got to yet, I add to the sheet I started and save and forget it in order to continue with my task at or story at hand.
Later on between stories I look over the works I want to eventually write. Certain ones beg to be written. The ones that I repeatedly go back to on a regular basis adding stuff to that document and that ends up being several hundred pages of ideas, notes, or research material is a good place to start. I can organize my notes at that point into an outline, supplemental information, narrow down how many characters are to be involved and possibly start a character sheet for the book.
My character sheets are like a rap sheet slash roll call of the characters in the book. Sometimes I add bits of what they each do at what point throughout the book or series in order to keep stuff straight. As I develop or reveal details about the characters I log it on the rap sheet. It’s a handy reference material for writing the book especially if the book turns into a series of books.
I write the outline as the loose order which will be the main thrust of the stories plot. This is where I identify what has to happen in what order to properly reveal or introduce the right information or characters in order to reach the predetermined end point of that book. I say loose order because I don’t nail down each and every scene or use all the information I have gathered and brought together for a story. I would always rather have too much information to work with and provide too much stuff because my limited exposure with editors has taught me that a lot of stuff will be gleaned and marked out with that affectionate red pen.
As I have stated before in previous posts concerning writers block – I enjoy and relish the areas through the story where I inadvertently write myself into a corner or dead end. There is generally a reason it just stops. Through my lack of planning, a technical hang-up in the story itself, a mental block on my part, but something causes this phenomenon. When I would first encounter this situation I was tempted to back up to where the story was flowing and just take it down another path, one that doesn’t lead to a dead end. Later as my experience has grown as a writer I realized that it is the creative part of writing a book that I enjoy so much. Just as readers love a good plot twist or unexpected turn that by side stepping this stoppage I am missing an opportunity to be creative and surprise my readers.
So from then on as I would get stuck it would be time to brain storm, get crazy, have fun with the story. I play What If? One writer friend of mine says when this happens it means it is time to blow something up in the story! I find that humorous but I don’t take that approach. I do look for a creative way to get out of the situation and see where it takes me. Some of the best parts of my books, the mini climaxes throughout the story are the result of such creatively playing around. If I had a hard outline and wasn’t open to explore multiple different paths to get to the desired ending I perceive I wouldn’t be able to effectively write a book in this manner. The result is a creative, fresh, exciting experience for me as a writer as well as my readers.
I feel in some books I read that the authors are so hell bent on getting to their goal that everything is streamlined and focused down to that point and there is nothing else there. Very linear direct stories with no surprises, major plot twists, little eddies of creativity along the way. I have discovered when I get goose bumps and excited writing the story and piecing it all together that all that will manifest and carry over for the reader. That’s how I know when I am doing it right. When it is dull and boring or I have to work and push to get it out, I am moving in the wrong direction, this story isn’t ready. It’s time to work on something else.
I enjoy the world wind of possibilities as I have to decide which story to dive into next. Once I commit to a project then I have to get tunnel vision and focus on that story. A little bit every day! I don’t punish or limit myself to a certain word count I must attain each day, because I feel that could hamper my creativity or over time train myself to limit my productivity. I don’t want to feel if I hit a predetermined word count I am done, EVER! Some days I might only write a page or two, other days I might crank out five chapters. One weekend my wife took the boys and went to the lake and left me at home and I wrote this insane amount without regards to time. I slept when I was tired and ate when I was hungry and wrote my happy ass off.
I keep all my notes and reference material in a file folder and work off my laptop which sits on my lap in my living room almost every evening. I have realized that someday when I am blessed enough to have an office at home and I can write full time what stuff I want in that office. I will want a comfortable chair, a nice desk, a desk top computer for writing at the desk but still have a laptop for writing when I am out of the office. I want one wall of book cases, windows along another, a large detailed map of the world on another wall along with a movable bulletin board to hang pictures, and my research material all over like the police use on those cop shows when they are figuring out the connections on an intricate crime scenario. I also like to have different selections of instrumental music (no words or lyrics) playing while I write because it helps me write faster and I seem to be more creative when listening to subtle creative pieces of music which stir my emotions continually while I write.
I hope some of this helps aspiring writers, newly published writers, or provides a basis to examine how and what works for you as you write. Understanding what works and what doesn’t is part of the style and craft we must learn to continue in this endeavor called writing.
I am done with selfless self-promotion for a while. I do want to thank everybody who took advantage of my give away on Amazon of my first novel “Whisper.” It wasn’t as successful as I dreamed it would be but it was the most successful promotional thing I have done since being a published author. Almost 650 people took part and picked up a Free copy of my first book. If just a small percentage of those people come back later this year to check out the sequel when it is published it is a great start to developing a following of readers.
May God Bless you all. Writers – Get back to work! See you all next Monday!