Writing

When your characters have a plan, but you don’t know what it is…

“I think I have a plan,” Character A said. 

But I didn’t know what his plan was. That’s where I got stumped this morning during my writing time. When I typed those words, I knew it was true for Character A  to have a plan in his mind. He’s a smart guy after all. He figures things out. He’s good at solving puzzles. But I’m not. For a few moments, I sat scratching my head and staring off into space–afraid that Character A’s plan would derail my writing session today, because I didn’t know what his plan was!

I stared at the Sailor Moon wall scroll next to my desk. I watched my rats snuggle in their house. I stared at the carpet. I listened to the “Skyrim OST” on my iTunes. Then, finally, it hit–his plan! I started typing as fast as my fingers could go, afraid I’d forget the snippets of Character A’s plan that had come to my feeble mind. Thus, the writing continued quite smoothly until I’d written over my daily 2,000 word goal. *Whew*. We made it to the other side of Character A’s plan.

Isn’t it awkward when your characters know more about what’s going on in a story than you do? After all, didn’t you design your characters? Didn’t they come from your head to begin with? How is it possible, you might ask, for a character to have a plan and you not know what it is?

That’s a hard question to answer. As I’ve written here before, I truly feel like stories are already created and complete before you start unearthing the words that go with them. That’s why I maintain that Character A had a plan and it was a good one–I just didn’t quite see it yet.

How do we discover the plans our characters have? I don’t always know. Sometimes I have to rewrite. Perhaps I didn’t get the story quite right on the first go-round. Other times, like this morning, I’m able to somehow pull all the strings together and figure it out with grand “Aha!” moments. It’s still hard, though, and if you’re not careful, being out of sync with your characters can unravel a whole scene or chapter.

My advice? Don’t rewrite until you’re absolutely sure you can’t reconcile a character’s words or action with what needs to happen next. In some cases, you may need to step away for a while. Go write something else. Take a break, then come back and see if you can go on. If you can’t, chances are you might need to rework the dialogue or an entire scene. Other times, you have an epiphany and can get right back to work without rewriting; you’ve figured it out! Woohoo!

Writing is harder than most people think. Even for those people out there that have natural talent, writing is a skill that must  be nurtured and flexed as often as can be managed. For me, the hardest part about writing is plotting. Characters come very naturally to me, for some reason, but plotting? Nope. Especially since I’m mostly a pantser, writing a detailed, complex, and connecting plot can be a great challenge. Hence the reason Character A can have some grand plan in mind but my poor brain is stuck trying to figure out what it is…

Do you have any particular writing areas that you struggle with? Share with us and tell us how you go about correcting or exercising that area.

Thanks for stopping by, as always!

 

~L.M.

Writing

Getting in the Writing “Zone”

I woke up this morning feeling extremely groggy. My husband left for work a bit later than he usually does and because of that, I was a tad bit later in getting to my office to sit down for work. As well, I received a phone call  I needed to answer mid-morning while I was writing.  On top of that, my focus has been very dodgy this morning. Despite it all, though, I have miraculously gotten some good writing in and finished with my 2,000 words a full 30 minutes earlier than I normally do. What’s my secret? Getting in the writing “zone”.

Just as many writers experience writer’s block, most of us also have this special place we can go to in our minds where, despite all distractions, we manage to get some of the best writing done. I like to call this my “zone”. My mind can somehow summon up creativity, the correct pattern of words, and the appropriate plot points even if I have trouble focusing. How I get in this zone is a mystery even to me, but I have some ideas of how it happens.

*I listen to similar music each day. Right now, I’m on a “Skyrim OST” kick (AMAZING for all you gamer nerds out there). Other days, I might listen to Celtic harp music. These two things share similarities of sound, so it helps my brain say, “Alright, L.M., time to write.”

*I write in comfortable clothing. I actually “get ready” much later in the morning instead of right after I wake up. I stay in pajamas until about 10:00 (after I’ve finished my manuscript writing) and then I take a shower and get ready. This keeps me feeling 100% comfortable while I’m writing. I think it helps my brain to feel warm and active.

*I keep my body hydrated. I drink a TON of water. It keeps my body functioning properly and it also helps the brain to perform the functions it should with optimum efficiency (the brain is something like 70-90% water!)

*I have a specific atmosphere in which I get amazing writing done. That can be different for all of us, but for me, I love low lighting, candle(s) burning, a fan blowing, and good music in the background.

*I put on my special robe. Yes, sounds weird, right? But in all seriousness, I have this fantastic, fluffy blue robe that I put on every morning before I write. It is like a magical robe! Okay, not really, but you get the idea.

I would probably feel comfortable assuming that most writers out there are creatures of habit. I think most of us probably have our weird, strange quirks in order to get our best work done. Just like professional athletes have strange “rituals” they do before games or tournaments, I think most writers develop their own daily rituals to get themselves in the mindset of creating and telling stories.

What do YOU do to get yourself in the writing “zone”, even if you have distractions in your life? I’d love to hear! Share a comment!

~Thanks for stopping by,

 

L.M.

 

 

About Me · Observations · Writing

The Planner // Pantser Hybrid

Are you planner or pantser?

If you are unfamiliar with these common writer labels, planners are writers who sit and outline or plot every detail in their stories before they get too involved with their manuscripts; pantsers are the folks who write by “the seat of their pants” and often start with a blank manuscript page and just jump in to see where their preliminary ideas take them.

I am somewhat of a hybrid between the two. I often begin stories with a preliminary idea and one or two characters. I then try to think as much as possible about this story seed and I start making some beginning plans. I might make genealogies of the characters I have in mind. I might begin a rough outline. I might sketch the setting or basic plot. But after I get about three chapters in? I just wing it. I rarely look at my outline after the first few chapters (and I write long manuscripts.) The beginning plans soon turn into a huge story that I write on the fly. I love writing this way. I have just enough plans to get me started, but after that, I simply take it a scene at a time and let my mind get creative.

I find that writing this way brings me the best results. Sometimes, new characters dash onto the scene that I had no intention of creating. They end up being some of my favorites. Sometimes, an idea for a new story plot point will just tumble onto the page and I’ll be surprised by it. I love this. I love it when my own writing takes me by surprise. I’ve told my husband often enough that I really feel like stories are completed before we sit down to write them. I titled this blog “Unearthing Words”, because in my opinion, every story is really already in existence. It’s just waiting for the right author to sit down and uncover its story. I feel almost like an archaeologist discovering ancient ruins. A story is already there; I’m just responsible for unearthing its words one page at a time.

What about you? Are you a pantser, a planner, or a bit of both? I’d love to hear about your own writing processes! Share in the comments section!

Thanks for stopping by!

 

~L.M.