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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Back to the Drawing Board


Here it is, the end of October, and NaNo is almost upon us.

I confess that I've never participated in the event before, and initially wasn't that interested. This summer, I had the fantastic experience of doing several 2 week Fast Draft challenges with a small group of authors, and for me, the results were amazing. It seems that while I suck at deadlines, when I issue a challenge to myself, I'm capable of more than I give myself credit for.

So...just days away and I haven't begun preparations yet. In fact, the project that I intended to focus on might not be appropriate. How can I write Book 4 of Bad Angels when I haven't even drafted Book 3? LOL! Oh well...

That's what the Drawing Board is for.

When I first enrolled in college, I was a pretty good student in most of my subjects. Unfortunately, I had major problems in algebra. Not math, not geometry...just algebra. Testing indicated a fairly rare and specific learning disability, and the school promptly assigned me a tutor. What I learned from her was the use of white boards and colored markers to delineate an equation. Later on, when I began writing plays, I used this same method to track scenes, acts and characters.

Let me explain some of my tricks. When I'm creating a character, or even if I'm blocked, I write the name of the problem character (or situation) in the center of the board, and then circle it. From there, I send out a line with the name of the first character that comes to mind. Then the next, and so forth. They all get their own circles and lines out to other characters. Pretty soon, there's a network that expands from that central character. It's a bit messy, but gets all the threads out of my head and into a physical context that I can stand back and look at.

Another trick I use is free association. I just sit down and think. I use a large yellow pad and set a time line for the story, and jot down all the possible directions the story could go. Or I bend the ear of a poor unfortunate listener and babble on about everything that's flooding my brain. Unfortunately, if I don't record it, most of that drifts away on the ether...

When I'm actually writing and feel the story is vague or without a clear plot, I use a variation of the Snowflake Method. I write a sentence summarizing the book. Next comes a paragraph that expands on the sentence. From there, each sentence is given its own paragraph. That's a neat trick for really pinning down your project. It also works really well to write your book's summary.

Well, hope there was something of worth in this late night post. I'm off to bed to dream about Bad Angels.

1 comment:

Ari Thatcher said...

I do something like the free association when I'm blocked. I focus on the scene and start having a conversation with myself on paper. (Or a doc file!) "What do I need this scene to accomplish? What do the H/H want here? What's keeping them from getting it?" It loosens the cogs and ideas start coming.