is an outline right for your novel?

There are so many different ways to be a writer. Each one of us is unique in our processes. Sometimes the things that you’ve been doing forever work well, and other times everything falls flat. Today I found myself pressured by my upcoming deadline. I have a self-made goal of finishing the first draft of my novel by July 15th. With that, comes a word count goal of 60,000 words. Normally, I attempt to not get bogged down by word count goals, but they exist and are necessary.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been making very little progress on my novel. While I love to say the phrase “progress is progress,” and move on with my life, it’s not going to work with my current goal. As of today, I have 42 days left to achieve my goal if I take weekends off. (I’m a firm believer in having days off to recharge.) That leaves me with a daily word count goal of approx. 670 words. Manageable? Yes. However, I need a plan of attack.

That brings me to my topic today: to outline or to not outline? I will admit that a rough outline of the first half of my novel already exists, but what lies ahead is mostly a mystery to me. For a lot of people, it’s nice to sit down to the page and just go with it.

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That wonderful feeling of unveiling points in your novel right along with the characters can be thrilling. However, sometimes we hit walls. I think with a lot of fantasy novels, it is important to do a certain amount of planning. Now I am faced with the question of whether or not an outline is right for me. For some writers it works really well and other writers despise them. I land somewhere in the middle of it all. I am not a fan of super detailed outlines.

I like general points, organized. If you keep it simple, it will work. If you don’t, it turns into an additional project. Something like this:

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method to my madness:

-The setting of my novel changes a lot. It’s good to keep track.

-Having 2-3 plot points helps me to keep the flow going when my mind wanders.

-I don’t always use the note section, but if I introduce a new character to the story or something happens that I absolutely must remember to go back to, I put it there.

So, there you have it. Starting tomorrow I will be working on the outline for the rest of my novel. Hopefully it will help!

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How do you feel about outlines? To outline? To not outline?

Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. Remember, you can join me here every Thursday for new posts!

Until next time,

Christine

how to track character emotions

Many years ago, I finished a young adult, paranormal-romance novel. It was my first completed manuscript and I was pretty new to that level of the writing world. When it came time to start editing, I felt a little lost. Unsure of how to tackle such a task, I turned to some writing books. In doing so, I found many instances where the importance of character development was brought up. I thought, “Duh. Of course there is character development in my story.” How could there not be?

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Just to be safe, I decided I would map out some details about my character chapter by chapter. Boy, was I surprised. Suddenly, it dawned on me. While my character made changes and evolved, there were certain details that weren’t quite consistent. Now, before I continue I will admit that the novel I speak of wasn’t very good and I did ultimately end up shelving it after many rejections. My personal life got in the way of the book and now it’s in a drawer somewhere. Since then, I’ve worked on many other projects and I’ve taken my experience with tracking character development with me.

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I’m currently working on a young adult fantasy novel and I absolutely adore my main character. Last week, I took a moment to consider my progress with her. As I contemplated a blog topic to cover for this week, I realized that my character development exercise is one that comes at a perfect time. What I’d like to share with you today is my emotion tracker for the characters in your W.I.P.!

Character emotions are an important part of character development. As you read a novel, you want a character who is progressing in one way or another. You definitely don’t want one who is happy one second and miserable the next for no good reason. Emotions can be unstable, but need to be monitored. For some writers, this may come naturally. Let’s just put it this way…it doesn’t hurt to check. I would rather double and triple check my manuscript before I find out that’s the reason an agent rejected me.

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Here is my simple method for tracking character’s emotions chapter by chapter:

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For each chapter, write one emotion that your character is feeling at the beginning, middle, and end. See what that progression looks like. Is your character consistently flat? Is your character too happy in dire situations?

This is a great exercise to build into your outlines too. I am currently finding it to be very helpful as I navigate my main character through a very tricky situation. I have found that I often make her overly anxious. She’s constantly in a state of panic or heartache. While it is fitting, now that I’ve tracked his pattern, I can expand her scope of emotions and play around with her inner thoughts in a different way.

Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay.

Remember, you can join me here every Thursday for new posts!

Until next time,

Christine

writer’s block emergency kit

We all talk about it…that thing that most people see as an excuse. That thing that many suffer from. That demon that whispers distractions in your head. That feeling when the words are just…not…coming. I’m talking about writer’s block.

I’m here today to tell you that I believe it is very real. I am currently in a pre-writer’s block phase with my novel. I’ve been working on a big fight scene for three days now. The words are coming slow, but they are coming! Normally, at this point, I may confuse the slow speed of ideas with writer’s block and throw myself into a full blown attack of, “I’m an awful writer.” Instead, I’m using this weeks post to be productive about it. I’ve come to learn that having writer’s block is an inevitable part of the writing life. The sea of inspiration inside of us ebbs and flows. Some days are great. Some days are terrible. A lot of days are in between. So, I got to thinking. What if I had a method to turn to that could assist me when I’m feeling blocked? Notice how I used the word, “assist.” I’m not going to lie to you and write that this is a cure. That wouldn’t be fair…and besides, I like you.

I present to you my 5-Step Recharge plan. I’ve used this exercise in my creative writing workshops a few times and the attendees seemed to respond well. It has personally helped me through some rough writing blocks. I hope that it can also assist you.

The idea is to answer all five questions and create a writer’s block emergency kit of sorts. That way, when you feel blocked you can turn to these answers and combine a few. For example, I mentioned that I’m in a pre-writer’s block phase. So, I’m going to take extra care and maybe light my favorite candle, listen to a few classical music pieces that I like, and make a fresh cup of coffee before my next writing session.

I want to take a moment to talk about Step 2. I often find myself blocked by my number one writing demon. You might know him…his name is Fear. He always says, “What will people think of you if they read this?” Sound familiar? Sometimes all it takes is acknowledging your demons. When I turn back to my list, I ask myself if I’m letting fear hold me back. If the answer is yes, it usually helps me to acknowledge that, release it, and move on.

Remember, no matter how hard your writing journey has been, you’re enough. Keep moving forward no matter what. Celebrate your passion.

Until next time,

Christine

breaking bad writing habits

Sometimes it’s hard to admit, but we all have them. I’m talking about bad writing habits. Have you ever noticed something in your writing through editing or perhaps a critique group that made your head spin? Recently, I was lucky enough to join a critique group. Joining alone was enough to boost my inspiration, but as the first meeting approached I was ready for it all. I wanted to hear the good, bad, and ugly about my current project.

Well, I got exactly what I wished for and a little more when a very embarrassing error was brought to my attention.

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Do you see that word? Somehow, my brain had programmed itself to type that version in every occurrence. I had completely stopped using “its” and only used “it’s,” which is incredibly embarrassing. Obviously, I got over that embarrassment since I’m sharing it with all of you now, but for my first session in a new critique group? It wasn’t inspiring.

Over the next few days I caught myself doing it several times while writing. I’d be peacefully writing and then…

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I needed to do something to make it stop.

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Well, I’m here to report a few ways that have helped me break this habit:

  1. Become hyper aware of the error. I put a giant sticky note next to my computer that said, “IT IS Christine!!!!”
  2. Use that handy “Find & Replace” tool on Microsoft Word. If your mind slips, it will save you.
  3. Be kind to yourself and keep writing. We all make mistakes. You will evolve if you try.

Here’s hoping the advice I gave myself, helps you too! What type of bad writing habits do you have? How did you break them?

Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. Remember, you can join me here every Thursday for new posts!

Until next time,

Christine

the art of brainstorming

“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.”

-Neil Gaiman

I’ve been pondering how often I allow myself to contemplate as a writer. Day to day life gets so hectic that it can sometimes feel impossible to spare time for actual writing let alone brainstorming. At this point in my writing career, I’ve worn a few different hats. I started out writing poetry, moved to novels, back to poetry, worked my way into the freelance writing world of pop culture news, and came back to novels about a year and a half ago.

My current passion project is a young adult fantasy novel, and thanks to social media groups like #5amWritersClub, I have been able to get on a really nice regimen with my writing. With that said, I’ve also been considering how much more productive I am when I sit down with the blank page after allowing myself time to brainstorm.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Christine, how? Why? I don’t have time.”

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I understand. When I first started dating my boyfriend, who is also a writer, about two and a half years ago, I was perplexed when he would tell me about how important brainstorming is. As a writer who always scrambled to the page, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best, I couldn’t imagine setting aside time for that.

After a while, I realized the difference between my writing methods and the way my boyfriend did things. As an expert ponderer, he always approached his writing sessions with ease and not a lot of anxiety. I figured, I had to give it a shot! I would make time for brainstorming and see if it helped.

Well, there’s a reason this post is called “the art of brainstorming.” People, it works. The more I ponder, the more prepared I am when I get to the page. Sure, it’s not always butterflies and rainbows, but the difference is clear. When I allow time for brainstorming, the writing flows.

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If it sounds like a daunting task, start small:

  1. Put on a song that inspires you and brainstorm what your next scene will be about for the length of that song.
  2. Write down three plot points that you know you want to conquer in your next chapter.
  3. Take a walk and think about what your characters are feeling at the present moment in your W.I.P.

If you already fancy yourself a brainstorming expert, cheers! Pour yourself a hot cup of coffee and stare at the ceiling while the scenes come to life in your imagination. Don’t let anyone tell you that brainstorming isn’t productive. It absolutely is a necessary part of creation and it should be practiced.

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Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. Remember, you can join me here every Thursday for new posts!

Next week will be about breaking bad writing habits.

Until next time,

Christine

magical monday motivation writing prompts are here!

…and I think they are just what you need every Monday, don’t you? Sometimes it’s fun to think outside of your normal comfort zone. Visit the “Need Inspiration” tab to check out the latest Magical Monday Motivation Writing Prompts, and some other fun things to help bring something special to your writing session. I’ll be adding random bits to that page often, so be sure to check back!

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Until next time,

Christine

chickens.

“Practice kindness all day to everybody

and you will realize you’re already

in heaven now.

That’s the story.

That’s the message.

Nobody understands it,

nobody listens, they’re

all running around like chickens with heads cut

off.” -Jack Kerouac

Happy Birthday Jack.