Writing Plan: The Unchecked List

This time I didn’t do very well checking off my list. It’s not a surprise, but I’m still disappointed in myself. I don’t know what I was doing this month, but it wasn’t writing. It’s amazing how badly I did this month.

…I should probably move on, shouldn’t I?

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Take a Minute to Outline

By this point it should be obvious that I am a plotter not a pantser. I am also wordy. Strangely, though, I am only wordy when I’m trying to explain something or I’m talking to you. In my writing I usually need to add words in the second draft. Yeah, I know. Weird.

To deal with my inability to stop talking, I decided to break down my writing process into small steps instead of one giant post. (You can take a look at my longer pre-writing post here and imagine how much longer that would have been if I’d explained everything.) This first post deals with the basic outline.

This method is a version of the Snowflake Method, altered to work best for me. His guidelines are great, but some of the steps just didn’t work for me, and others needed to be modified. This is just another example of how to use things that work best for you.

Ingredients

A Ripe Idea (If you’re not sure if your idea is ready, take a gander at this post here.)

Depending on Your Preference:

A Computer and Word Processor (You could use your phone or tablet if you work like that.)

Or

A notebook/paper and pen

Step 1

I write down my idea in one sentence. This sentence cannot be a run-on sentence; in general, I try to keep it under 20 words. I’m being descriptive and generalizing a lot. This is the sentence I can turn to when I’m introduced to a family friend (or a friend’s friend, I suppose) as a writer and they ask what I’m working on.

This is, surprisingly, the hardest part of this method because it’s only a sentence that represents my entire plot. Yes, you read that right: my 500 page book is going to be condensed into one sentence. If you’re willing to give this a try, it might seem daunting. Now, take a breath, and read some of the examples I’ve made up. None of them took me longer than five minutes (which is about as much time as you should spend on your version).

Examples (see if you can guess them; answers at the end of the post)

  • A boy wizard goes to a magic school where he finds friends and battles an evil Dark Lord.
  • A young man learns that his favorite books and magic are real,  but not the way he remembers.
  • Although her voice is beautiful, a young maid isn’t beautiful, especially in the court of the kingdom she has to save.

Step 2

Now I take that sentence and make it a paragraph. I’m more flexible with this than I am with the sentence, but I try to keep it to the standards of paragraph writing I learned in elementary school: 1 intro sentence, 3-5 body sentences, and 1 conclusion sentence. Sometimes I also allow myself a background sentence, but not usually.

This is the paragraph I can pull out when that person my grandmother introduces me to actually seems interested in the my one-sentence pitch. Someday, I imagine I may be able to use this method with people who actually can help my writing career. The thing I need to remember, though, is that the paragraph covers the entire story; it’s not like the back cover copy.

Tip: I try not to take too much time with this. If I’m taking more than an hour, I start doing other stuff and go back to it.

Step 3

The next step is to make this paragraph into a full outline. I start as far back in the backstory as I’ve imagined, and go all the way to notes for after the denouement. This is essentially the timeline for the entire story as it lives in my head.

I really like writing this part because it’s when I see all the holes in the plot. I usually know the beginning and the end, and some vague sense of what direction everyone has to go in, but here I find what works best for the story. The first of the surprises tend to show up here, and the story starts to take form.

Another tip: Sometimes you can go straight from this to a detailed outline, but I find it easier to card than outline it. Use what works best for you, but keep in mind that this is still a vague outline. Don’t worry about putting too much detail into it.

While It Simmers

There we go. That’s how I outline. It shouldn’t take longer than a day or two to do all of this,  I have a solid foundation for my story, and it’s all in a few pages I can easily reference when I need to refocus. If I have my world solidly in mind, then I sometimes jump straight into carding or writing. Otherwise, my next step is world-building, which I’ll do after letting the story rest for a day or two.

I’m sure I seem insane, but do any of you outline? What are your methods of pre-writing?

Answers (I took these books from the stack of finished books on my desk; tell me if you guessed right)

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone) by J.K. Rowling
  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  • Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

Seems I Lost My Voice

Sorry everyone. I didn’t check up on– well, you don’t really need to know exactly how bad I am at using my computer. It’s embarrassing for someone who is in her early-twenties. At any rate, I posted a blank post without meaning to and I am so very sorry. I’ll try not to let it happen again, but I doubt the truth of that statement.

If you’d like to actually read the post I wrote, you can click on the link here. It’s a nice little post about finding my voice and what I hope for those authors who are looking for their voices. Otherwise, I hope you stick around for my next post on Thursday. I promise it’s finished (I double-checked).

Thanks for your forgiveness and your… sticking-around-ness ahead of time. I’ll see you on Thursday.

I Really Sound Like That?

There are quite a few studies out there that say that most people don’t like the sound of their own voices. Most of those studies also explain why precisely we don’t (it has something to do with the difference in how we hear ourselves when speaking and how we hear recorded sounds), but that doesn’t matter in this post. In this post I’m going to talk about finding my blogging voice.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I am a wordy person. Some (most) would say that I can be pedantic, even. Usually they’re right. There are a lot of random facts rolling around in my skull and I can get distracted by them, so I end up rambling. I hope to cut down on that — at least in writing.

When I first started blogging I was worried about sounding like an idiot (I don’t know why; I’m usually quite smart), and that translated into being wordy in a much less entertaining fashion than I normally am. Since then I’ve relaxed a bit and I’m becoming wordy in a way that I hope is much more entertaining. Hopefully.

Finding your voice is one of the things that’s shouted at beginning writers almost as often as “Write what you know.” It’s also one of the hardest things to find because the only way you can really find your voice is to write. Just like most other forms of art, we need to practice to get good at it.

But, really, what is “voice”?

It’s you. Voice is how you put yourself into your writing that makes it unique to you. Not on any sort of conscious level,  although it can be downplayed or emphasized on purpose. Your voice is the soul of your writing, it’s your soul put into the written word. Don’t hide who you are in your writing; that’s what readers remember.

My favorite authors (and bloggers) all have distinct, developed voices that I can identify in moments. This is what I hope to find for myself. Even if I’m never a great or even a good writer, I want a part of my soul to show in how I write. I want the people who know me best in my personal life to be able to tell that these are my words, and I don’t want people I meet online to be disappointed by me in real life.

Have you found your voice yet? How did you? Do you think I sound interesting or would you like to hit me over the head with something very heavy just to shut me up? (It’s more understandable than you may think.)

 

**I’m an idiot. Mostly I’m an idiot technologically. Sorry to everyone who read the first (non) draft. This is the one I intended to post.**

 

When is My Idea Ready to Write?

The ideas are constantly floating in and out of my head like the fish on those horrible screensavers (they are entirely too distracting). When one of them swims off-screen, it’s not usually lost, but taking a break before swimming back into view. Sometimes, they do die off, but it’s a rare occurrence, and the number of little fish being born every day make up for the occasional death. But when is the fish ready to be fried for supper?

…did I go to far with that metaphor? I might have; let me clarify.

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An Update

Hello everyone,

First off, I’d like to thank everyone who’s found their way to my little writing blog and is following me.  I really appreciate that there’s anyone out there who wants to read what I have to say about writing. It’s a great morale booster.

That said, I think I”m going to pull back on the regularity of the posts. It will just be for the summer for now since I’m currently working on my Potter blog to start my re-reads on September 1st. Around September 7th I’ll reevaluate and let you all know where we’ll be going from there. If you have any interest in the Harry Potter book series, I’d love if you could stop by.

The Details: Instead of updating every week, I’ll only guarantee my update post and one other long-ish post. I may do some shorter, less formal posts as I feel like it, but I’ll probably be a little overwhelmed with planning out my schedule and doing the background work for the Potter blog.

Thanks for following and for reading my update post. You’ll still have two more posts this month on Thursdays, otherwise look for a post every other Thursday.

My Potter Blog

The Lost Art of Letters and the Writer

Dangerous words, but I’ve been thinking. In school, I took an AP Literature class, which meant learning not only about their work, but the authors as well. Some of this was done through first hand accounts, usually their journals and letters. I hated the work, finding it tedious and boring, but it did help me understand their stories, novels, or poems.

Some writers still keep journals. I keep an art journal that is half-filled with words. Every once in a while I try to keep a written journal that I seem to inevitably get bored writing. Many others actually succeed at the task, though, and we’ll have that when their works become classics for future generations.

Even those who don’t keep journals often track their lives digitally. They have Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter and any number of other accounts. You can even see what they’ve eaten over the last week with their Instagram account. I don’t do many of those, but I have a sporadically used Twitter account, and fandom Tumblr. I also have these blogs.

But what about letters? What in our modern world is replacing the snail-mail letter?

I can’t be sure about that. There’s e-mail, but that’s not as easy of a transition as you may think. With all of the other forms of communication, we no longer have to tell our nearest and dearest about the latest goings-on; they can check Facebook for that. If they want to know what we feel about the latest in popular culture there’s our Tumblr account. Our Twitter will often let them know what we’re following in the news and how we feel about it.

We don’t quite have the same personal connection in writing anymore. The things that they used to write about in letters show up in our various forms of social media, or we can just call up our close family and friends to talk directly. It’s dangerous.

I like writing letters and e-mails. I don’t have a Facebook account, so I actually do have things to tell people when I e-mail them. However, I’ve noticed that not everyone is that great at writing back. Some people (often my creative friends) love the opportunity to write with someone. Others wonder aloud and often why I don’t just get a Facebook.

When they do write back, it can just be bad. The grammar is horrible and there isn’t much capitalization or punctuation. Even worse, some of them have used txt-speak outside of texting (where it doesn’t grate quite as much), and have quickly learned not to do so with me. It’s like nails on a chalkboard.

I could be stuck in a past that’s just not here anymore, but I think I have a point here. How much are we losing by not writing to each other? Writing privately to someone allows the ideas to form in a way that we often don’t get in the public forum. Is this a loss to us as writers (or creative people in general)? Is this a loss to the future generations or do Twitter and Facebook and everything else make up for it?