Okay, I’m facing my fear of the blank page, and writing. Sort of. Rather, I’m outlining. It’s a prelim to writing. You know, planning to write. Planning is great. No actual writing need happen, which is perfect if you’re me and scared that your actual writing will read like so much steamy crap on a summer day.
So I worked hard on an Act 1 outline. It looked pretty decent. I got my inciting incident. My character’s inner and outer journey, an Act I climax. I hung it up on the front of my kitchen cabinet. It was pretty. (I used color-coordinated ink).
Then I got really brave and showed it to a writer mentor of mine, Les Edgerton. (If you haven’t heard of, or read his book Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go you haven’t been writing very long).
Les ripped my outline to shreds (nicely) and called my bluff. In his very direct manner, he told me all the things he thought were wrong with what I’d just done, but rather than leave me in a trembling puddle on the floor, he left me with one REALLY important bit of advice:
Daydream your novel as a movie in your head. Each time you think of a new scene in your “movie” jot down describing notes on a card, numbering each. Try to come up with between 45 and 60 cards. Pin those up on a bulletin board and begin writing each scene as it comes. Now, since a movie is scenes only and a novel is composed of scenes and sequels, insert sequels after each scene, although at times you can write several scenes in a row. When you get done writing those scenes and sequels you’ll have a first draft. Rewrite it and send it out.
Doesn’t THAT sound easy? Almost as easy as clipping my cat’s claws while the dog is barking at her. But the fact is, Les cut to the chase in my writing. It’s not that he thought all the other stuff in my outline unimportant and wouldn’t find a home, it’s just that focusing on that stuff was missing the point. The point being: Write a good story.
So what’s a good story? According to Les, it’s about Trouble. “Trouble in the form of a surface problem which is symptomatic of a deeper, more psychological problem.”
Then he gave me my light-bulb moment: Les told me that the way to put my character in trouble is to give him bigger and bigger obstacles to overcome, all the way to the end of the story when he finally overcomes the last one.
In other words: Make things bad for the protagonist, and then with each chapter or scene, make them worse.
Now THAT’s something I could figure out. Not that it’s going to be easy. But I can get my mind around it. I mean, how hard can it be to tell if things are getting worse? Things get worse in my life all the time and I have no problem figuring that out.
So okay, the reality is, it takes some thought, and a bit of planning. (Not too much! No over thinking things.) But you have to admit, there’s a simplicity here that is recognizable. So I’m going down this road to see where it leads me. Even if it means I have to face the blank page without scribbling an outline on it. Who knows, I could get a novel out of it.
My new motto: Worse is better. What do you guys think?
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