How to Get It Written: I Make Progress #amwriting

I’m surprised that this year, Daylight Savings Time (DST) is only a minor divot in my productivity. Most years it lands me on my butt for two weeks or more. Here’s what I think is different:

  • DST may be bad, but more daylight in general is good. I’m getting out in it, too.
  • I’m solidly on my keto diet, more solidly than I’ve been for three months.
  • I’m really focusing on using the tools I’ve found helpful and ditching those that aren’t.
    Handwriting is my new super tool. (Image courtesy of IndypendenZ at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

    I’ve found that revising a novel outline (or even creating one! but that’s another post…) is difficult, so I spent some time setting up a system to be sure that I can use my best tools.

  • Limiting how far I can wander when distracted. It’s way too easy for me to go crazy writing in the index card/synopsis area of Scrivener. I’ve abandoned projects before because I’d put Too. Much. Information. into the outline. Now that I’m using a variant of Save the Cat! Writes a Novel (Jessica Brody) outlining, physical index cards for outlining are a suggestion. The nice thing about physical index cards is that there’s a limit to how much I can put on one; the crummy thing is that getting them back into Scrivener is a pain. So I artificially limit the size of my Scrivener synopses. I feel better if each synopsis (beat) only contains the amount of info I can jam onto a 5″×3″ index card (11 lines of 43 old-fashioned typewritten characters each.) Yes, I counted. Yes, I’m obsessive. Sue me.

  • Handwriting. Misery, thy name is “dictation,” but I find that typing is not ideal for my fiction, either. It works for my nonfiction, but my fiction works better if I handwrite. Everything. (Not on paper! I use a handwriting keyboard.) When I’m stuck, I get antsy and want to have a pencil in my hand. Today I spent some time setting up both my iPad and my iPhone to be effective handwriting editors for those 437 characters. I now have a smooth outlining workflow from Scrivener Mac to the iThings and back.

The result? I managed to get seven Save the Cat!-style beats revised today. The appropriate sections affected by changed beats are marked for intensive revision. I feel like I can rip right along now and get all the stuff I dictated in November docketed and slated for revision in a week.

Damn! That is amazing! Here’s hoping it’s not a flash in the pan.

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On Killing Characters, or the Joy of Writing Mysteries #amwriting

While waiting on my beta readers for my NaNo Los Angeles submission to get back to me, I picked up the novel that I’ve been working on two. Freaking. Years. Now.

But I’m not frustrated… much.

The problem is that I started the novel about three outlining methods ago. My most recent notes are Story Genius (Lisa Cron) character background scenes. (I’m still using them—very useful and I’ll never start a novel again without them. Don’t need them for short stories, though.) Less recent notes are Save the Cat (Blake Snyder) (40 chapter “scene” cards), all of which need updating at the least. I even have some very old notes that date back to Rock Your Plot (Cathy Yardley).

What I’m finding, to my sorrow, is that I never used the logline template from Save the Cat! Strikes Back (Blake Snyder.)1 Since I started the work, I’ve learned that if I can’t fill out the logline template, I don’t have a story—yet. When I filled it out Wednesday, I realised that one of my favourite characters has to die.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In fact, she needs to die about 20% of the way through the book. Dammit. But keeping the poor woman alive was twisting my story. I’d begun to dread writing her scenes. I couldn’t figure out how for her to interact with anyone else.

That’s because she was supposed to be dead already.

When I showed my new logline to my son, his reaction was, “Of course.”

The good news is that I doubt I’ll need to throw out more than about 3K words out of my 90K target. She has that little impact on the story.

That’s how much she needs to die.

Excuse me while I go make my murder mystery more murderous.