Can Things Get Any Worse? Hopefully!

Posted by: Birgitte  :  Category: Story Structure, Write a Novel

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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13 Responses to “Can Things Get Any Worse? Hopefully!”

  1. Rachna Chhabria Says:

    Hi Birgitte..the blank page can be pretty daunting. I like your Writing Mentor Les Edgerton’s advice about writing each scene on a card. I have read about it in a writing craft book. I feel its a good idea as changing something at the scene stage is easier than doing it at a later stage.
    In that book, it’s also mentioned that the scenes can be juggled around and the importance of using the index cards method.
    .-= Rachna Chhabria´s last blog ..Lessons I have Learnt from My Spiritual Master =-.

  2. Birgitte Says:

    Twitter: necessarywriter
    I like the index card method. It’s the basis of many computer writing programs too. I’m going to take Les’ advice on that one. Thanks for the comment, Rachna!

  3. Lia Keyes Says:

    Twitter: liakeyes
    Go for it, Birgitte! Keep us updated on the ups and downs as you go. I’m rooting for you!
    .-= Lia Keyes´s last blog ..The Plot-Expanding Power of Consequences =-.

  4. Birgitte Says:

    Twitter: necessarywriter
    Thanks, Lia!!!! Stay tuned. Writing shall commence!

  5. Patti Says:

    Birgitte…you post eloquently reminded me that 1)writing is hard work and 2)that the hard work can be alleviated by writing strategies and 3) the hard work is made lighter by the compassion and encouragement of good people!
    .-= Patti´s last blog ..Readers’ Poll: Should Margaret Get Back with the Father of Her Son? =-.

  6. Birgitte Necessary Says:

    Twitter: necessarywriter
    Indeed it is! Good summation, Patti. :) I think you nailed it right there! :)
    .-= Birgitte Necessary´s last blog ..Can Things Get Any Worse? Hopefully! =-.

  7. Claudine Says:

    Time to get out my copy of “Hooked” again. I like the idea of “daydreaming your novel as a movie.” I’m going to go back and look at my outline with that in mind.

  8. Birgitte Necessary Says:

    Twitter: necessarywriter
    Great, Claudine! I keep thinking that too as I’m writing.
    .-= Birgitte Necessary´s last blog ..Necessary Writers Classes and Workshops =-.

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