Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The 30k-Word Wall and How to Break Through By Keely Brooke Keith

Whether you're a pantser, plotter, or plantser, Keely Brooke Keith has some tips for keeping your story from stalling thousands of words in. -- Sandy

Keely: I’m a mix of plotter and pantser. I like to have a basic outline of where the story is going, but I live for that first draft rush of watching the story come alive on the page. I’m currently writing my 8th novel. A few novels back, I noticed I’d hit a wall in my writing at about the 30,000-word mark every time.

At some point (book 4 maybe?) I decided to find out why this was happening. It took work, but I uncovered what was missing in my preparation. Armed with a little planning—but not so much that I suck the possibilities out of it—I set out on my next novel adventure, and sailed right through.

Here’s the handy checklist I complied to keep both my passion for the story burning and my focus on the story’s theme:

  • Character’s name:
  • Personality type:
  • Hidden problem from past wound (inner journey):
  • Lie he/she believes:
  • Greatest fear:
  • Secret desire (opposite of fear):
  • Greatest strength (something admirable shown in first scene):
  • Flaw (shown through attitude):
  • Quirk (a symbol of the flaw):
  • What does he/she value most:
  • His/her status quo (opening image):
  • Question posed to him/her (theme of book):
  • Inciting incident that puts what he/she most values at stake:
  • Antagonistic force:
  • Love story carrying the theme:
  • Outer journey (definable goal):
  • Obstacles:
  • False peak or reversal upping stakes:
  • Bleakest moment:
  • Calvary/new info:
  • Lesson learned (inner journey):
  • Decision to act/prepare for biggest test (using new courage):
  • The true test:
  • Solution to outer journey:
  • Proof of change (opposite of opening image):

This list isn’t meant to be formulaic, but a simple exercise where I write a couple of words about each area of the story. It helps me see what I’m missing, or what I’ve done too much of. Running through this checklist at the mid-point of my first draft gives my spontaneous side plenty of ideas for twists, and helps remind me of what I want the story to accomplish.

How about you? Do you hit a wall at a certain point in your first drafts? What would you add to this list?



Keely Brooke Keith is the author of the Uncharted series (Edenbrooke Press) and Aboard Providence (CrossRiver Media). Her novels are known for blending genres in unconventional ways. When she isn’t writing stories, Keely enjoys playing bass guitar, preparing homeschool lessons, and collecting antique textbooks. Keely resides with her husband and their daughter on a hilltop south of Nashville where she dreams up stories, hoping to encourage, comfort, and inspire readers. She is a member of ACFW.