Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How To Not Get Lost by Pam Hillman

Happy Writer's Journey Wednesday, dear readers. Annette here. Have you ever been lost while writing your novel? Lost while plotting? During July, Pam Hillman posted the following article to the Novel Track: Writers e-loop. She offers some handy road signs for getting back on the right track.

How Not to Get Lost*
by Pam Hillman

I thought I was the only one who had this problem, but I've seen it come across this loop several times in the last five days. Even though I hate for you guys to be lost, I'm relieved to know I'm not alone!

I was (am) struggling with this very thing. I know the major plot points of my wip and have a lot of ideas for scenes, but there are days when I stare at the screen and wonder what comes next: Should I blow the bank up now, so the hero can rescue the heroine, or wait another 50 pages, and write some scenes where the hero has fallen in love with her and can't bear to see her die, even though she killed his father. (That's not in my WIP, BTW.)

I don't have the answers to staying on the right path, so hopefully someone farther down the road can help us out. But I do have a few tips that might help.

One more thing. Novel Track is about getting words on paper. Only use the following devices if you are truly stuck and can't move forward.

1a) If you work at a day job (like I do), have your plot handy, either printed out, or on a jump drive, or your computer (if you're allowed that luxury at work), and let your mind play with the next couple of scenes as often as you are able. And, yes, some days this will never happen.

1b) If you don't have to go to the day job, but have lots of chores, sit down at the computer first thing. You should have worked out the next scene in your last writing session, so try to get the major points of that scene on paper. If you get on a roll, keep writing until you're stumped.

THEN go wash the clothes, vacuum, whatever, but keep your mind on the story, and hopefully a glimmer of what happens next will come to you. The minute it does, stop with the chores, and go back and add the info to your plotting files, and/or just write the scene. Stuck again? Wash and repeat. Your house will thank you for it, and so will your future editor.

2) Take a different approach to plotting. I plot on an excel spreadsheet, and broke my story down into Act I (25%), Act II (50%), Act III (25%). James Scott Bell's Plotting book helps with this. I emailed a CP (critique partner) a short breakdown of these three Acts, explaining it to her...In Act II, I said..."Uh,stuff happens, but at the end of Act II, THIS has to happen, etc." The email was more for my benefit than hers. In the process of preparing that email for her, I worked through a couple more issues about what needed to happen next. I'm learning that I only need a couple more scenes ahead. I don't force myself to know all the scenes that are around the bend, just enough to push the car a little farther down the road.

3) Stuck again? (Man, this road's muddy!) Okay, do you have a copy of the steps of the hero's journey? If not, holler, and I'll get it to you. The hero's journey makes my eyes cross sometimes, but the other day I made a copy and put it in my folder for the wip I was working on, and started trying to fill in the spots for each step. The exercise filled my gas tank
for just a little while longer. I moved another few feet down the road. Oh, and I stopped working on that exercise when I discovered what I needed to know for the next few scenes. I'll go back to it as I move further along, and see if it can yield a little more fuel for the journey.

4) Create a timeline for your story. This might help you pinpoint a curve in the road that you need to watch out for.

5) If you brainstormed with a group of writing friends about this book,and rejected some of the ideas, review them again. Some of the ideas might work now that you're stuck in the middle of the road.

6) Character Charts. Try those. Something might click.

7) At the end of the day, don't pat yourself on the back and think "Whew,glad that's done!" Think..."Okay, what happens next?" On the way to the grocery store? Turn that radio off and mentally walk through the next scene. (Kids are a little trickier. Been there, done that. Sorry, there's nothing I can do to help there!)

8) "Plan the work, work the plan." That should be our mantra this month.

9) Last, but not least, do not get bogged down with any of these exercises. If they don't jumpstart your creativity, or open up your story, then maybe they're not for you. The goal is to get to the end of the journey you mapped out for yourself this month. Keep that front and center in your mind!

* Used by Permission. Pam Hillman is one of the hostesses of Seekerville blog.

To learn more about Pam, visit her Web site.

1 comment:

  1. Pam! I'm perpetually lost! Great ideas swim through my head, but trying organizing them?? Ha, half the time I have the cart before the horse, LOL!

    Thanks for the pointers and the perspective. I love the idea of bringing a jump drive to work with me...you just never know when a few moments of brilliance may hit!

    Great advice!

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