How do you write?

Amazingly enough, most of my answers to this question begin with: “I used to…”

I used to pants a whole story, straight through. Starting with nothing more than a character walking into my brain and we’d take off running.

I used to never read through what I was writing as I was writing it.

And I definitely never used to edit while I was writing.

I also used to never write out of order. I’m a very linear thinker, so how could I possibly write scene X when I hadn’t written scene C. (My issues with outlining too).

I seem to be out to break every one of those. I still pants rather than outline, but it’s more of a hybrid combination. Using Larry Brook’s StoryFix blog posts I normally pick out the major things I need to happen in a story (pretty vague). For example my whole ‘notes’ for Part 2 might simply be: They need to start building the core of their relationship here, learning to trust each other, finding out their strength. The Big Bad will need to keep them on their toes, preferably more dead bodies, and have him fail sometime around or slightly after midpoint, not enough to make them win…just to move them into Attack Mode.

Add that to figuring out my internal/external GMCs via Susan Bischoff’s post for my two protagonists and my big bad, and I’m good to go. But it’s still way more planning than I used to do.

I also find, that now that I’m publishing, I want to write as clean of a first draft as possible. Before it didn’t matter how messy draft one was. There was no guarantee I was going to do anything with it. And if it failed, so what? I had a zillion other ideas. Not so now. I don’t want to do fifteen rewrites simply because I didn’t ‘plot ahead’ and I don’t want to have to cut 10k words just because I didn’t double check my pacing. Now, I find I write around a quarter of the book, read it through, edit it, then write the next quarter, and so on. So yeah, now I’mediting while I write too. Who’d have thought?

And for the first time ever, I cansometimes write a scene out of order. This is still hard for me, because I only vaguely know what happens…but if I know a scene down to it’s core, I might skip a head (more likely with a novella or short than a novel).

But all of this flabbergasts me. These were things I just could not do. When I used to read through a WIP or, God forbid, edit it while I working…I’d shut down. Go into I hate this mode (also know as the “I suck mode” where the doubt fairies tackle and maul me). And while I still have the doubt-mode quite regularly, I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my ability as a writer. I’ve studied structure, pacing, characterization and put them to practice…and while I’m no ace at them, I have a basic understanding that lends me confidence. When I look at myself now, I’m amazed at much I’ve grown as a writer over these past few years.

So, how do you write? Are there any tried-and-true methods that you tend to use when tackling a new story? What about old methods that never worked before, but are suddenly working for you now?

Night Time Driving with No Destination

I’m finally to the part in Hounded where I left off to put it on hold awhile back. This book wrote itself fast the first time around, the first 40k falling out in a week, so I was hesitant to go back through it. It actually wasn’t that tough of a revision on the first chunk, and now that I’ve finally worked through that first half, I opened it up, knocked off the scene I left on and dove back into the writing. (For the record, the scene I cut wasn’t going in the direction I wanted it to go in).

The ending has suddenly clarified itself. Not the uh… way to the end, but the final Big Fight scene is shimmering in the back of my brain like a beacon. Suddenly, I know where I’m going and the scenes are going to be falling into place even faster (my writing speed might not match the first half, but the book is figuring itself out as I type).

I don’t know where I first heard this analogy, but it totally fits the “way I write” when I’m pantsing a story. I typically start off with a glimpse of a character and the first scene and have this sudden mad urge to write it. I pretty much go, “Road trip would be SO awesome!”, grab my keys and run madly for the car in the middle of the night. I start the car up, turn on the headlights and I get the first glimpse of what’s going to happen in the scene.

As I get moving out of that first scene and onto the highway of my story, my headlights switch to brights and I start getting the inklings of what will happen in the next few scenes. Typically I know about 1-3 scenes in advance. I have no real sense of plot or destination, just that I’m going to find a number of pot holes (typed plot holes first, Freudian slip?) and that I really want to take this thing off-roading. At midnight.

Then somewhere around the half way point, where the story changes and we move from Wanderer to Warrior, where my characters actively switching to going into fight mode… I normally catch a glimpse at the final endgame. And with that destination suddenly pinned on the map, everything starts falling into place.

It’s a thrill. The part of writing that gives me chills and makes me slip into mad writing dashes – right up until the 3/4ths mark where I normally stutter and stall, my car breaking down and needing some desperate repairs because well… I want to be done, but I know I have a tendency to rush the ending. And right here, as we near the Climax of the book, and things need to end as strong as they began, I start getting a little panicky about procrastination… but that’s totally another post.

Right now, I’m riding the famailiar high of writing when I finally have that distant flashing beacon, but I’m not really sure what’s going to pop up in my way. I love the not knowing. I love the wildness of it all. And by golly, it makes me love this book a thousand times more. Remind me of this when I hit the 3/4ths mark. Or heck, hope like hell I madly skip my normal stalling point (and no, outlines have never helped at that mark either, if anything it just makes me worse with my fretting) and ride this rush straight through till The End.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

So how do you write, if you write at all? Pantser/plotter? Crazy mix between the two? Does your process change from book to book, story to story?

Plan your NaNo – Organize Your Plot

As thousands of people world wide are gearing up for the insanity that’s National Novel Writing Month (also known as AHHH!), I’m rolling out the ball with post two on the Writing Wednesdays… this time, looking at organization.

Not just how you organize the folders on your computer… though I am a bit OCD about that. Or crazy. Probably depends on how you look at this. No, I’m looking at two things here today:

1) Organizing your plot – aka plotting

2) Programs that help you do it!

Now, seeing as I’m no expert on plotting, I figured I’d refer to you all to some wonderful peeps who are. Namely, Blake Snyder over at Save the Cat and Larry Brooks over at Story Fix.

Blake Snyder’s site is particularly helpful because he takes apart movies, right there on the site so you can see how it works. And as visual as I am, that’s a life saver. Larry Brooks’ 6 Core Competencies go beyond the Beat Sheet, and I found it helpful to wrap my mind around the whole story a bit more. Though what’s really great in combination with Larry Brook’s blog and books? Susan Bischoff’s Blueprint (she also does a series of posts that walk your right through it). Let’s me work through everything in a manner I understand (very similar to the snowflake method, but makes more sense with my poor brain).Also, Larry Brooks is doing a series of posts leading up to NaNo, to help you get your story in gear before the big Nov First.

Now, that I’ve passed out all the How-To’s I enjoy, I figured I’d pass on the programs in which I actually get the plotting done. My all time favorite? Sticky Notes, which came on my PC.

BC's outline in progress

I’ve always loved the idea of plotting by sticky notes, but it never works out as well in real life. I don’t have the wall space and by the time I’m done moving around my stickies, they’ve lost their sticky-ness so many times it’s sad. Seriously, the only thing I dislike about the program that comes with my PC… is the fact that I can’t have ‘multiple desktops/files’ so I can plot out more than one book without having to transfer the outline to Word.  I love the sticky note apps you can get on the iPhone, iPad, and through the droid app-stores too. Portable plotting. -grin-

Another favorite of mine is Microsoft Office’s One Note. It’s for when I’m just starting that idea-gathering stage and just beginning to look at starting a blueprint for a story. I can keep all of my idea snippets and inspiration photos in various notebooks there.

Other Writerly Links:

Kristen Lamb just did a series on Structure – Part one

Chuck Wendig did a great post – 25 Ways to Plot, Plan and Prep Your Story

For those who really love the idea of plotting with Real Life post it’s check out Julie Cohen’s blog

Susan Bischoff’s recent review on Character Arcs will blow your mind – it did mine

And, since we are talking NaNo here, Natalie Whipple’s great tips for First-Drafting

NaNo is Nearing

It’s that time of year again and while I obviously write all year round, somehow my calendar seems to open up magically for November. Amazingly enough, the edits I’ve been working on are drawing to a close for this round, the stories I’ve been prepping for submission and the site are almost in their final stages… and it’s the month before November. Go figure.

To celebrate the National Novel Writing Month’s site reopening last night (2 am… really?), I figured I’d post the cover and summary for Open Season, a book that’s finally going to get it’s full scale rewrite. From scratch. Probably makes me a bit of a rebel, but hey, I love this story and the words are new (a real good thing considering how old the original is!).

Open Season

As a weregoose, everything is about survival and psychologist Juliet DeBranta is a goose with skills. Skills the local werewolf pack decides just might come in handy. So their alpha makes her a deal: He’ll keep her off the supernatural dinner menu if she helps his new wolves make it through their first moons. For awhile, everything is going just fine…until he shows up asking for help for five new werewolves and then ends up dead the next day. As far as Jules is concerned, things really can’t get any worse – that is, until she meets his replacement.

And Marcus Briggs isn’t nearly as nice as his predecessor. He thinks Juliet is more trouble than she’s worth, but he’s willing to give the psychologist a shot. If she can get the pack’s new wolves through their first moon, Marcus will keep the paranormal predators off her back. But things are never quite that simple, and when one of Marc’s wolves starts stalking Juliet, he decides the best way to keep the goose alive is to stay close – but the closer he gets the more Marcus wants her for himself.

On the blogging side of things: For the rest of this month and November, for Wednesdays, I’ll be sharing tips and tricks for surviving November. This month, I’ll be talking a lot about preparation and sharing some awesome links from fellow writers on how to come out of November with a workable story and not just a finished shoddier-than-crap manuscript (been there, done that). I’ll also be joining the Six Sentence Sunday crowd with Sunday updates, though those will continue after November. ^_^ Welcome to blog for anyone new stopping by.