It depends on how you look at it. I’ve found two ways to get started writing again on my novel. Unfortunately, neither actually involves writing the novel. They both involve getting deeper into the novel and working out structure. Both have helped me work out issues and settle questions I had in my mind, and both have given me a mental boost to start writing again.
I finished my first – really awful – draft, went to a writer’s workshop, read some books on writing, and I’m now taking a course on storytelling. In the process, I have re-started my novel, working on a second draft. But some suggestions in the writing course and the workshop got me working on my novel again. Although they took some time – several days on each – I have been able to use them to begin working more confidently on my novel, knowing where the story is going and where it will end up.
I made up both of these, but they might be out there somewhere, in a similar form and I know other people have different ways of doing this (note cards, posters, etc.). There’s nothing new under the sun, after all.
1. The Story table. I created a simple table in Word. My purpose was to see things in parallel – the outer journey (plot) of the book and the inner journey of the main character. After I started, I added the inner journey of what was going on with the antagonist and the descriptions and events for the other main characters, including character arcs for some of them. Then I added sub-plots, and “breadcrumbs” (those hints that will be needed at the end).
The headings for the columns in the table are:
Structure: The basic story diagram (from The Writer’s Compass: From Story Map to Finished Draft in 7 Stages) of rising action, plot points, to climax and falling action.
* Storyline: Next to the structure, what’s happening when, by days and times. The plot points on the first column are next to the events at those points.
* Timeline/history. What’s happening in the outside world each day of the story. The timeline/history has been created (see below).
* Protagonist – internal – character arc. What’s happening with the protagonist; what she is feeling, thinking, how her character is developing.
* Sub-plots. What’s going on with other characters who are important to the story.
* Antagonist. What’s going on at each point with the antagonist, relative to each point in the story.
* Breadcrumbs. Points at which I need to insert specific facts which will be needed later.
2. History/timeline. This document was developed from a suggestion at the writing workshop that I needed to set up the “rules” for the world I was creating. I want to write historical fiction, so it made sense to do this. It would work well for all types of fiction, though, as the author is creating a world that may differ in small or large dimensions from the world we actually live in. To think of it another way, the world appears differently to each of us, so the author can create the world in his or her own image.
This document is a detailed description of the world of the story, before the story starts and during the timeline of the story. No individuals are mentioned, but events are described in detail, along with situations and facts about the various areas of the city. For each day, the weather and other natural phenomena (eclipses, for example) are described.
Falls River, Iowa ,is a small city of about 100,000 people, with a county of about 150,000 people. People outside of the town, in the county, live in various small communities. The smaller communities are largely farming – corn and soybeans and some cattle and pigs. The city is on the Dover River.
Day 1: September 19, 2018.
The day was clear and sunny, an early fall day. The temperature was about 64 at 10 a.m. The high for the day was 71, falling to 55 at 10 p.m.
The electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) was detonated at 10,000 feet in the atmosphere at 10:20 a.m. on Wednesday, September 19, 2018, over Kansas. The blast immediately wiped out all electronic devices and the electrical grid of most of the U.S. (except California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii, and the western parts of Nevada.)
No cars made after the 1970s were able to run because of their computer circuitry. Older cars would run, but it would be difficult to find gas for them because gas station pumps were not working and no gasoline trucks could deliver more gas.
Phones and cell phones, portable devices, tablets, and computers would not operate once they ran out of batteries. No satellite service was available and no Wi-Fi networks would work because routers running on electricity were inoperable…..
How my “writing tools” have helped me with my draft:
1. The story table helped me figure out where the plot points should occur, the character arcs of the protagonist and other major characters, how tension needs to build through the novel, how the sub-plots fit in, and how/when breadcrumbs might fit in. It sounds like a lot of work – and it was – but I’m moving ahead more confidently now, and having the outline in my head and on paper is immensely helpful in letting me be free to write instead of worrying about where I’m going.
2. The history/timeline made me spot inconsistencies in what was going on in the story and in the greater world. It also gave me some ways to bring in information to my characters, who were shut off from the world. It was fun to write the history, and I was finding some creative ways to add to the story. I might not use much of this, but it is important to know more than you put into a story.
With all this work, it’s taken me about a week, but I think it’s been helpful. Or have I just been procrastinating? What do you think?