Had some fun today imagining my books as clickbait articles. I urge my fellow authors to try it – at the very least, it’s an exercise that can narrow down the plot of a WIP or help you come up with those pesky blurbs.
What are you carrying around that prevents you from picking up new things?
If there’s one tip I should take to heart – not only as related to writing, but other stuff as well – it’s that sometimes in order to move forward you need to chuck things out. Even though you’ve put in a lot of work on them. I mean, I’ll keep snippets of deleted scenes for years, trying again and again to include them in new stories – and it never works, because the tone is off, or I’m not thinking through how the old scenes fit into the new timeline.
I know this, and yet I keep making the same mistake. I’m so loath to throw away things I’ve toiled over for hours and hours, but sometimes… you just have to. Put it down to a learning experience and move on.
I don’t know why I don’t do this more often. I mean, I love writing, and yet it’s like I avoid writing by reusing old stuff. As if I can’t trust myself to come up with new words.
Or is it just laziness? I don’t know. But today I came across an amazing writing tip on Tumblr that really spoke to my fetish for logical hierarchies, and I decided to try it out. START FROM SCRATCH for once, instead of trying to squeeze a stagnated WIP into a new structure and ending up with an even bigger mess than before.
So. I brought a pen and notebook into the garden and got to work the old-fashioned way. And after ten minutes or so I had to run inside and continue on my laptop, because my longhand couldn’t keep up with all the brand new ideas that kept popping into my head!
At the end of the day I had an entire new novel mapped out, and it turns out that I can actually use minor scenes from one of those pesky WIPs in this new story. But the thing is that this time I started with the structure, with a departure and an arrival point that guided everything else, so when I use old material I know exactly where to put it for it to make sense in the dramaturgy instead of just cramming it in any old where.
Now, I won’t lie and say that structure is everything. It’s a tool that takes you some of the way, but not all the way. Sometimes you need to break the rules you’ve set up to move forward. The plot is a map that guides you, but sometimes you need to ignore the map for a while and trust the terrain. The whole process is like a pendulum that swings between structure and anarchy. Use the tool until you get stuck, then chuck the tool and improvise until you get stuck, etc.
That’s how you build a story.
It sounds like a paradox. How can writing – a very calm and quiet activity – help you get into shape?
Well, take it from me, the grand high wizard of couch potato-ness, whose only interests involve sitting or lying down. Every form of exercise ever invented bores me to death or scares me witless. And despite this, I’ve finally found a way to both get in shape and write my books simultaneously – which means I’m saving time, too!
All you need is a phone. Whether you use a dictation app and clean the text up afterwards, or a simple MP3 recording that you then transcribe, the key is to talk to yourself while you walk. This method works wonders both for my all-important first drafts (like this one) and for my fitness. Having the scenery change around me instead of staring at the screen all day helps me think up more exciting plot elements, and since I’m concentrating on my story, the walk isn’t boring. Plus I get that daily dose of oxygen that keep my brain running smoothly.
You can combine talk-writing with other activities as well, for example housecleaning. If you haven’t done it before, it may take some getting used to, but I find that the pros far outweigh the cons.
By the way, this post was written during my walk, using a dictation app ;).