Confessions of a Reformed Three Chapter Junkie!
My first three chapters are great—the best ever—and my lovely critique partners assure me they are. And then I just fizzle out, lose interest, and those voices disappear from my head.
This is where I start working on a new idea. But no more!!
I asked myself— where’s the excitement, the compulsion to stay up into the wee hours of the morning to write?
I started to believe I didn’t have thirteen chapters in me. However, when I looked back at my discarded stories I noticed they all had something in common—I stopped caring about my beautiful, sexy characters because I got bogged down in details while listening to that ever-present inner voice telling me I write crap. I thanked that voice for its opinion and set out to prove it wrong.
I’ve tried plotting only to realize I’m a pantser who suffers the angst of thousands of rewrites. I’m also a perfectionist, though you wouldn’t believe that if you saw my house. I go over and over my writing, get stuck for hours looking for that perfect word, or just right emotion! Well, I’m here to say there is no perfect word, no just right emotion.
If your story drags the reader in and takes them on your characters’ journey, they don’t even notice the writing because they’re too busy racing through the pages to find out what’s happening to these fictional people you’ve made them care about.
So what have I done to rectify my problem?
I’ve combined the best of both plotting and pantsing and I have charts! I can all but hear the groans.
To track my characters, I use charts borrowed from a workshop Fiona Lowe presented to the MRWG. Fiona is a sensational multi-published author and generous friend. She gives so much back to the writing community.
I also use another chart designed by me using Fiona’s teachings as a basis.
1. Maintaining the Tension http://fionalowe.com/articles.html which I fill in as I’m writing. I go through and make a list of ideas that relate to my story.
2. My worksheet is a simple list of the turning points based on my ‘How-to Recipe for Writing Category Romance’ http://www.margaretmidwood.com/my-how-to-recipe-for-writing-a-category-romance.html, which I also complete as I write and when those wonderful scenes spring into my mind.
Start with a pivotal incident
Turning point one
Turning point two
Happily Ever After.
I use sticky notes to jot the ideas down and pin them to a whiteboard or large sheet of paper (because my writing is virtually illegible, I often type them onto coloured paper and cut into squares.) This might seem like a lot of work but the advantage is you can see in a line what’s happened and it’s very easy to shuffle the order around if it’s not working.
This wonderful idea was shared with the MRWG by the talented author Paula Roe at her workshop.
I believe Scrivener http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php has a useful tool for this and might be worth looking at as long as you don’t use this as another avoidance tool.
Navigation pane/Document map in Word is another useful tool to track the points in my manuscript. A simple highlighting of a line here and there will allow you to jump to this section. (Find the menu where it says normal, highlight the section you want highlighted and you can mark it as heading one which I use for chapters, heading two which I use for my points and can be folded down using an arrow when viewing in Navigation pane/ Document map. Paula Roe has a helpful article http://www.paularoe.com/docmap.html
Now, I’ve bared my terrible secret for you all, I hope if you’re still stuck in your chapters, re-writing and dissatisfied, then some of my suggestions might help.
1. Write your first rough draft - ignoring that negative little editor in your head.
2. Have your manuscript critiqued.
3. Revise your manuscript, include or discard suggestions and changes.
4. You have your wonderful book!
May the words flow, the end of your story be near, and the contracts follow.
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