Own your Writing Style
A writer writes, but how do you conceive an idea and make it come to life? Do you daydream for hours on end and develop scenes in your head before you ever write a word, or do you sit in front of your computer and wait for inspiration to strike?
Your writing can get carried away. By spending to much time plotting and outlining, you might find it hard to gather all of the information into one compelling narrative. On the other hand if you’re a pantser you might end up with a narrative that dances around beautifully sculpted details, convoluted to the point you lose track of the story arc.
In this article we will discuss how to keep track of creative ideas. We will cover how to organize ideas into a well scripted piece of writing. That way a story can be written effectively that readers will enjoy effortlessly.
Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?
If you are a pantser then and you sit down at the computer each day, waiting to be surprised, writing your book literally by the seat of your pants. If you are a plotter then you craft detailed outlines before you put pen to page. Whatever style you write you should have a vague idea of where the story is headed before you begin.
For more information visit Cindi Myers Article: Plotter or Pantser: The Best of Both Worlds
Stephen King claims that his story ideas come form a “what if” question. What if a classic car hunts people down? (Christine) What if a man on death row has a gift to heal the sick? (The Green Mile) What if an outcast teenage girl develops telepathic powers during puberty and burns down her high school?(Carrie) Stephen King answers these questions by typing out a narrative scene by scene. He claims it is like digging for dinosaur bones. The story is there. He simply finds it and digs it up. Stephen King is a pantser style writer.
For more information about Stephen King and his advice on writing I highly recommend his book: Amazon: Stephen King, On Writing
Avoid the Premise Novel
A lot of pantsers and first time novelists fall into the habit of writing a premise novel. A premise novel is a story built around an idea. Premise novels typically have no solid protagonist, no narrative drive, and no personal stakes. These stories are usually told from multiple points of view because the writer wants to show all aspects of the idea. The stakes feel high but none of the characters have anything at stake.
For more information visit Janice Hardy’s article: Look! It’s an Idea Going form Premise to Plot
The Snowflake Method:
Fiction by Design
Whether you consider yourself a pantser or a plotter, it is a good idea to sit down and plan a few things in the beginning. If you don’t get somewhat of a grasp on your theme you might end up spending 500 or more hours on a rambling first draft. One method that seems to work well is the snowflake method.
This method is useful and necessary if you are writing a mystery or a historical narrative so you can keep your plot points accurate.
Step 1) Write a one sentence summary of your story. This is also good to remember for when you are sending out agent or publishing queries.
Step 2) Expand your sentence to a full paragraph that includes story setup, major conflicts, and the ending.
Step 3) Write a one page summary sheet about each of your characters. Include: names, one sentence summary of character’s storyline, the character’s motivation, the character’s goals, the character’s conflict, the character’s epiphany. After you do this for each character expand the one sentence summary or your character into a paragraph summary?
Step 4) Expand each sentence in your summary paragraph into a paragraph unto itself.
Step 5) Write a one page description about each major character and a half page description about each minor character.
Step 6) Expand your story synopsis. If you wrote one page then expand it to four.
Step 7) Expand your character descriptions into fully realized character charts.
Step 8) Make a list or a spread sheet of all the scenes you’ll need to turn into a novel.
Step 9) Take each line of the scene list and expand it into a paragraph summary.
Step 10) Start the first draft.
For more information visit: The Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson
Outlining and Brainstorming Tools
Scrivener: a writing program designed for novelists and screenwriters. I use Scrivener software to help me outline and keep track of character notes and research. Learn more about Scrivener from my previous Scrivener Editorial
Evernote: an organization tool for all aspects of your life. It is good for jotting down a plot point if you are in the supermarket. You can save voice messages, pictures, webpages and many types of information and organize it however you want using notebooks. I have lists of books to read, quotes, jokes, research topics and much more.
Trello: a multi-tasking project managing platform. I use Trello to keep my unwritten story lines organized for when I do get around to writing them. With moveable cards it is easy to shift scenes and notes around to organize what you have written and what you need to work on.
bubbl.us: a simple free brainstorming website you can use in your browser to let ideas branch out and take shape.
xmind.net: another free website for more comprehensive brainstorming. (There is a premium package that comes with more tools for presentation and export capabilities). New features with xmind include an option to save to Evernote.
In conclusion, you should have a vague idea of the story’s theme and be able to write a one sentence summary of your story before you write a word of your first draft.
Find a method that works for you. Hone your skills and develop your own unique process so it comes natural. I am reminded of an inspirational message I once heard: amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.
Use tools to help you organize your thoughts and develop your ideas into a working cohesive artfully crafted piece of writing. This will save time and headaches.
Are you a pantser, a plotter, or a little of both? Does your method work for you? Would you be willing to try a different method and test yourself to develop your creative process?
Try it out and see. That is why it is called the writing process.