Tomorrow the World's Greatest Critique Group embarks on our seventh annual writing retreat. This is the first time I'll be spending the time writing all new material instead of revising. My To Do list for today is long indeed.
Earlier today I posted that this was the 6th writing retreat. I stand corrected.
have started a new project, and I’m having trouble getting two of the
characters on the page. On the suggestion of Amy Huntley, I started journaling
for these characters.
is a time to be self-indulgent. It’s a place to put backstory and info dumps
that can’t go in a manuscript – at least not without serious revision and certainly
not at the beginning. I start by picking a font that looks like my character’s
handwriting and use it for the headings. One of the characters is a doodler, so
I inserted clip art of drawings she might have made.
I let my characters ramble until I find their voices. It doesn’t matter if they
talk about characters and events unrelated to my story. I’m getting to know them. Sometimes
they say things like, “But this isn’t about Gran, Greta, Nelson or even
Carlotta. It’s about Calla” or “It’s easy to write about anything except him.”
My characters know they’re supposed to be helping me, even when that’s hard to
do. Often it takes several pages before I get to a kernel of truth like, “Maybe
having an army of mismatched relatives to watch my back makes me brave. Maybe
Calla only has me.”
#1: I am a plotter. Before I begin a new novel, I write a list of events,
emotions and hooks that will go in each chapter.
#2: I don’t always stick to the outline. Sometimes I discover better
directions. Other times those diversions need to be cut. This time,I
started with the Beat Sheet from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat to pinpoint the
major landmarks, then I filled in the outline from the beat sheet.
#3: Several chapters in my outline have nothing written in them.
#4: I started writing anyway.
first draft is when I get to know my characters, hear their voices, and
discover what bothers, excites, frightens and delights them. I can only do that
by writing. For the first draft, I rake up a big pile of words without worrying
whether any given scene or character is essential. Later, I’ll analyze the
conglomeration and figure out what stays, what goes and what needs to be
writers worry about how bad their first drafts seem to be. A manuscript can’t
be fixed until it is written. Creating this big pile of words is not only
useful work, it is essential.