As I delve more deeply into the deep and chilly waters of the Writing Craft, I realize how very organized we authors have to be D: It’s ridiculous! I mean, SUB plot lines? Scene lists?Characters arcs, Emotional arcs, Dramatic arcs, and Climatic arcs? Well why dontcha throw in Noah’s arc too!?
Actually, no. Don’t do that. Cuz then we’ll have to do character bios for all the animals. Noooo thankkksssssss.
The most organized I’ve ever been is when I was in college working two jobs and holding down a full class schedule. But that wasn’t ME being disciplined. I was just following the system like a sheep. Maaaaahhhhhh. Now that I am free of the institution and am (supposedly) a well-adjusted adult (HA), I have to instill some self-discipline. In my opinion, it would be easier to take candy from a hyperactive, over-tired, screaming toddler than to make ME have discipline. No, it’s not a position I’m against, per se. I am literally incapable of being organized and have little self-control. Which is why my books are piling on the FLOORS now… SHHHHH don’t tell my husband!
Okay so in almost every other area of my life I don’t have discipline but writing isn’t one of them. I NEED to be organized in order to function properly when I write, which is a virtual FIRST. As I type this, I can hear my friend Owen’s voice in the back of my head saying “HA! I TOLD YOU SO! Structure is LIFE!” Yes yes, you were right. And now all….6 of my followers will see it as proof. But no worries, when I publish my book the first dedication will be “Yes Owen, you were right.” Then millions will know.
But here’s the catch about being organized: there are literally THOUSANDS of ways to do it as a writer. Geezus it’s mind-boggling. It really is! I’m sure you’ve been here before but for someone like me who doesn’t have a foundation of organizational strategies to jump off from, trying to find the combination that works for me is daunting, frustrating, and a whole lot of other verbs I can’t say in polite company. I feel like a self-diagnosing psychiatrist trying to find which combination of pills works the best but the results are varied and unpleasant. *Le sigh*
Well, despite the *Insert ‘-ing’ verb here* mess of information I filtered though, I did make progress, as told in my blog post HERE. I found the Snowflake Method and so far it’s been the best overall organizational method for my writing. Great! YAY for steps forward! Grab some dark chocolate and cinnamon whiskey and celebrate. (Yes, that’s exactly what I did too.) Cool. Now let’s move on to the next bullet point in my dysfunctional writing life. One of the steps in the Snowflake message is to write a scene list. HOOOOOOOOOOOOO DOGGIE! Here’s where it gets a little more complicated and where I’ve blended some techniques to match my style.
First, I decided to use a bit of the Three Act Method. It basically outlines that there are three disasters and a climax. It gives me an equidistant span of time to pace said disasters. All the guess-work is taken out of it, which I love (and kind of hate. Where’s the unpredictability!?) Then, to fill the in-between of those disasters, I’m using a snippet from a blog I can’t remember that said each part of the three act method should consist of about 16 scenes. Hooray for whittling it down more! I can do this!
………..until I realize I have only about a dozen fully conceived scenes.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! IT NEVER ENDS!!!!!!!
At this point I gave in to my inner hysteria and had another glass of whiskey. To, ya know, make it shut up.
Well I HMMMMM’d and HAAAAAAA’d for several days and came up with an okay rough scene list to start from. YAY! And this is where a large helping of my “That’s A Good Idea” notebook came into play. As I’m sure every good writer does, they have a notebook (or several) where they write down EVERYTHING. Character names, bios, quotes, dialogue, research material, book titles, questions, answers, blog links…it’s like the unofficial and ever-changing bible for writers. Thanks to this, I have come up with a third bullet point for my journey into writing-dom. A third! That’s huge news for someone who managed to be late for her own wedding thanks to–you guessed it!-disorganization.
- First bullet! Discovering the Snow Flake Method
- Second Bullet! Using the Three Act Story Plot and the 16 scene average
- Third bullet! The six questions I ask myself when writing individual scenes
You probably have heard of them all before at one point or another in your writing exploration but I feel these really define what’s important to make a scene successful. Best part? They don’t have to be in ANY kind of order! Rebellion rears its tiny head! So for the umpteenth time, I’m going to write for you all the questions you already know because you know, repetition equals remembrance. (Practice makes perfect is a lie.) Here’s my lifeline to YOU:
- What needs happen in this scene?
- What is the purpose of this scene?/ Why is it important?
- Where is the conflict?
- Does everything inside this scene move the plot forward?
- Does everything in this scene make sense and flow?
- Do the characters end up in a different emotional state at the end of the scene than when it started?
And just for kicks, and the fact I love the number 7, here’s a 7th question for you to consider and it comes from a famous writer. You may have heard of him. His name is Anton Chekhov. If not, go give him a quick once over. Chekhov’s gun is a brilliant common sense theory for writers. The ultimate DUH. Anyway, number 7!
7. Is everything that is said and done in the scene important to either the next scene or the whole of the book?
It really helps me to stay focused on a scene when I remember these questions. I have them on a separate sheet of paper near me when I write so I can double and triple check them. Sometimes every paragraph gets a once over with the questions when it’s a particularly hard scene to write for whatever reason. It also shuts up my inner editor, who is constantly nagging over my shoulder with her sour cream and onion scented breath. Yes these questions would probably be more suited to a second draft but it helps me NOT write wish-fulfillment crap. Helps to streamline the process.
It’s also helped me re-write half my beginning scenes but HEY part of the fun right? HA.
I have three bullets in my Writing Organization Arsenal now. W.O.A?? Hey that works! It is a pretty big WHOA moment for Disorganized Me. Owen is crying metaphorical tears of joy. That’s alright. He may have won this round. But he’s also trying to get me to exercise and eat better. HA! What’s that saying about having the last laugh? He’s trying to save a sinking ship here xD Someone is going to have to throw HIM a lifeline soon!
W.O.A friends. Writing Organization Arsenal. Find one that works for you. Don’t be afraid to change it or dump it completely for a new one. Start a writer’s bible and start doing what you do best. I wish you luck, plentiful whiskey, and brilliant epiphanies. And life lines 🙂