During the month of November, I didn’t get very far with my WIP. I’ve been slowly making my way through Story Genius and I’ve accomplished two things:
- I’m more confused about my story now.
- I’m losing confidence in my writing ability.
I think I’d save myself a lot of heartache if I’d just stop giving into the temptation of reading how-to books on writing. The more I read, the more I over think the process, and the end result is I write less and pile on a mountain of self-doubt in the process.
Writing is hard and I’m making it even harder in my never-ending quest for the perfect “formula” for writing a novel. I need to build my confidence back up, so I’m stepping away from the novel and Story Genius for a couple of weeks.
We each have our own way of doing things. In the years that I’ve been writing, I have figured out that if I don’t write every single day, it’s really hard for me to get back into it. I am a person who needs to write every day. It’s important that I get back into that habit. I’m setting the novel aside so I can work on some short stories instead. The idea of being able to start something that I know will not take me very long to complete will give me the confidence boost I need, take the overwhelm out of the writing process, and help me get back to writing every day.
I decided to go with the flow like I talked about in my last post and I’ve gotten nowhere with my WIP. Something isn’t working with this story. I find myself constantly starting over and I’m sick of it.
My work in progress is a rambling mess, and, yes, I know what you’re thinking: But Jen, your first draft is supposed to be a mess. You’ll fix it in the rewrite. Yeah, maybe. Or I just might be wasting my time. Who the hell knows. The one thing I’m certain of is that my current WIP is page upon page of events happening but no real story.
I thought about signing up for NaNoWriMo and starting again, banging out another 50K words this month, but it would be just another 50K words of random shit happening with no real reason as to why, so I decided to go a different route.
Recently, I bought a copy of Story Genius by Lisa Cron. I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy another writing how-to book until I finished my first draft. I love books on writing, but most of the time they end up becoming just another form of procrastination rather than a useful craft tool.
According to the back cover copy of Story Genius, this book “takes you step-by-step from the first glimmer of an idea to an expansive, multilayered cause-and-effect blueprint–including fully realized scenes.” So instead of participating in NaNo this month, I’ll be working my way through this book.
Hopefully, by the end of the month I will know more about the story behind all the events happening in my current WIP and maybe finally complete this first draft.
The other day I posted a meme on social media that said the following:
Expect nothing and appreciate everything
A short conversation ensued and at some point I said that “go with the flow” needed to be my daily manta.
I am an over-thinker, which inevitably creates problems that were never there in the first place. I also second guess myself…a lot. All of this leads to self-induced stress that throws my inner world into a state of chaos.
That’s kinda where I am with my writing at the current moment. It’s no secret I have major issues with getting a handle on my inner critic. I’m doing battle with her right now as I slog through writing the first draft of a novel. I haven’t gotten very far because I keep questioning what the hell I’m doing. Starting and stopping. Starting again, then stopping to outline because I’m not sure where the story’s going.
My over-thinking went into overdrive and I needed a break from the chaos, so I set the project aside. It’s been a week and a half since I last opened up the computer file. But I think I’m ready to go back to it now. I’m going to stop outlining and go back to the writing. Ultimately, the story will show itself in the writing. Outlining can be saved for those times when I’ve hit a brick wall and need to figure out how to get unstuck.
I think the best thing I can do as a writer is lower my expectations, appreciate that I have the ability to pursue something that I enjoy doing, and try going with the flow for once to see where it might take me.
I’m a detail-oriented person and I feel scattered if I don’t have some kind of step-by-step plan in place, particularly when I’m writing fiction. These character flaws of mine drive me crazy sometimes, but I’m slowly coming around to accepting them.
If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, then you know I’m working on the first draft of a novel. Up to this point, I’ve had some basic ideas of what and who my story is about. I’ve also managed to write multiple scenes with a current word count tally somewhere around the 7K mark. However, I’ve noticed that I’m just kind of meandering through with the scenes I’ve written. They aren’t really going anywhere, so I’ve decided to step back and figure out the details.
Recently, I read this article by Jennifer Haupt about keeping your novel on track with a process journal, something I already do for almost every writing project. One thing she talks about is keeping track of the basics of your character’s personality traits and how the protagonist’s personality and personal growth should remain consistent throughout the story. This isn’t something I always think about when I’m writing my scenes, so I end up with a lot of rambling nonsense that ends up going nowhere.
Over the weekend, I started a more detailed outline, beginning with the basic information to figure out more about my protagonist. First I asked myself the following questions:
- Who is my protagonist at the beginning of the story?
- What is her desire?
- What is the initial plan?
- What critical weakness makes the plan fall apart?
- What is the “super power” that becomes stronger toward the middle of the story?
By asking those questions, I figured out the following:
- My protagonist lacks self-worth, is unwilling to face her past, blames herself for her mother’s death, harbors secrets, is career-focused, and believes she does not deserve happiness. In other words, she’s a mess.
- Her desire at the beginning of the story is to revive her career ASAP.
- Her initial plan is to find a job and start her life over far away from the hometown she was forced to return to after her fiance dumped her.
- Two main things cause her plan to fall apart and they are driven by her feelings of guilt: First, she finds out the family business is in trouble. Secondly, she begins to form a bond with her old flame’s young son.
- The “super power” that becomes stronger toward the middle of the story is the protagonist begins to find her purpose in life and slowly builds up her self-worth.
This is the kind of information that will help drive the story. I’ve put all of these details at the beginning of my outline for easy reference. The next thing I did was made a list of the major story events for Acts I, II, and III to help me figure out the structure of the story. The next step in my process will be to create a scene-by-scene outline centered around those major plot points.
When it comes to writing, I’m not a pantser. I need to have a road map. I know there will be detours taken along the way, but having a basic knowledge of how to get from point A to point B will keep me on track and hopefully make getting through this first draft a much smoother process in the end.