Beginning Writing and some Outlining

I was going to break down my process by what I use, but I realized that I use most of my tools at all stages of the writing process, so for now, I am going to go in a more chronological order for how I write.

The beginning of any writing process starts with the obvious: an idea. For me, an idea can be a character th20161222_191719_censoredat pops into my head (this is a frequent occurrence), a setting, or even sometimes a scene that comes fully formed. If I’m smart (sadly, I am not always smart when it comes to story ideas), I write whatever it is down. OR, I have recently begun using a simple recording app on my phone if I am absolutely in a place or situation where I can’t write something down. With the WriteMinds, there’s a handy little Story sheet that I’ve begun to use.

Now, ideas can be a very odd thing. As I said above, ideas come in all varieties. Sometimes they are crystal clear and other times it’s like trying to peer into a murky lake to see what might be lurking on the bottom.

This is where I like to free write. Once I write down what my initial thoughts are, I give myself a bit of time to think and then just start writing. K.M. Weiland calls it ‘What ifs’ and that is definitely part of it, but I write down everything and anything I think of, even if I have no intention of using it. Sometimes, that kind of thing makes it’s way into another idea, or becomes a new idea all its own! Hm… that might explain why I am having the problem of not finishing anything! Too many ideas! Anyway, trying to record as much as you can is a good habit to get into.

Once I have a solid handle of the kind of story I want to tell, I start working on a premise statement. I don’t follow any kind of format for this part. I just do a sentence or two of the kind of story I want to write. Once I have that in mind, I tend to go in a couple of different directions, all depending upon what sparked the idea to begin with. If it was a character that popped into my head, I try to get to the know the character first. I do that by filling out a character checklist that I have from a book called “Fantasy Fiction Formula” by Deborah Chester (this is another great resource and highly recommended, though details will be a future post). I tend to tweak it as needed, either deleting or adding questions when I need them.

If it was a scene that popped into my head, I write it out, often taking notes as things about the world or characters occur to me in the margins (or as footnotes). If it was a vague idea, or a general premise, then I tend to have a bit more fun and just start free-writing. I may even jump around from character interviews/sheets to worldbuilding to planning out a few scenes.

I tend to go back and forth between my WriteMind Journal and Scrivener here. Sometimes, I just like to write long-hand and then transcribe it into Scrivener. This is especially true if I start this at work or when I’m out and about scrivener-premise_censoredwithout my computer. Once it gets into Scrivener, I compile it and then print it out so I can put it into my WriteMind. Once I have the initial ideas down, I begin to flesh things out. Lately, after doing some important reading (especially ‘Structuring your Novel’ by KM Weiland), I try to look at some of the themes and the Dramatic Question (Deborah Chester calls it SPOOC) of the story in question. Once those are figured out, I again jump around to characters and more worldbuilding.

It’s often at that stage that subplots start to form and so they get noted down as well. One of the things I struggled with previously is how to outline without feeling as if I had trapped myself. The secret is in jumping around. Don’t feel you have to follow a linear plan or do it in just such a way; it took me a while not only to realize this, 20161222_191750_censoredbut to feel comfortable with it. I like my plans and knowing what to do when XD But this way seems to help spark a lot more creativity and it is all very much connected. While it makes sense to start with your initial idea and the premise, trying to complete just one thing before moving on is actually more limiting.

Once I have enough of an outline (and this tends to vary for each piece or project I’ve found), I sit down and start writing. I tend to prefer to do this part almost exclusively in Scrivener. I also use Scrivener to help plan scenes out. I don’t plan each scene out beforehand all the time. Some scenes don’t come to me until I’ve begun writing. One thing to keep in mind; just because you have a plan doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. If you find a side-road to take, take it, see where it leads!

Welp, that’s the beginning part of my process. Next week, I’ll show you some of the things I do in Scrivener, both while Outlining and what I do during the actual writing process. See you then!

A Slightly Dampening Realization

So, this week, I had planned on delving more into my writing process, but I think I am going to delay that one for a week or so. I’ve been talking with some friends of mine about Works in Progress (hereby known as WIPs). I had said I was a bit scared to go back and see what all I have to work on (I’ve been collecting ideas for far too long XD). Well, last night, I did some cursory diving into some of my writing folders to see just what I had.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I REALLY need to just- finish something. I have about 15 novels just from past Nano projects (starting in 2013), plus at least another 15 novels from other projects, some of which have been kicking around since junior high, or even before. Of those 30 novels (and that’s a low estimate, honestly since some of the other projects might need to be split up into more), there is only one completed first draft.
As I came to this realization, I made a few decisions. The first one is: I need to finish something, not just the first draft, but all the way through. The second one is- I have no idea how to do that. I tend to go into fairly intense cycles when it comes to working on projects where I will be almost manic when it comes to working on a project. I’ll devote large chunks of time, focus, etc on working on it for days, weeks, even months. But eventually, that peters out. And then I will lose focus, lose motivation. I need to find a way to keep plugging on a project. I have attempted to slow down a bit, do little parts at a time, hoping I don’t burn myself out, but that only works for so long and then the same thing happens: I lose that motivation.
Right now, I plan on trying to pick a project, a new one and go from first step (outlining), then to the first draft, and even to editing. I have never managed to do it. The reason I am telling my readers this is because I am truly curious to know any little secrets you may have for your own writing, any advice. I have been writing since kindergarten and still, I can’t seem to stick with a project long enough to finish it. I hope to change that and again, any advice (including links to blogs, books, just personal stories) would be greatly appreciated!
So feel free to reply in the comments or through the contact form. Next week, I will tell you a bit about my writing process, where I start and I will be focusing on my WriteMind planner!

A Few Writing Tools

Each writer has their own little routine that best suits them. That routine is going to be comprised of several components. One of the more important components is the actual tools used. I thought I’d share about what tools that I use for writing.
Scrivener
OneNote
Laptop
Microsoft Word
WriteMind journal

scrivenerI’ll go one by one. For those that don’t know what Scrivener is, it is a program by Literature and Latte that is made especially for writers. It is a very comprehensive program where you can keep all of your notes and research all in one space while you are writing. It has many many features and there is a slight learning curve, but it is definitely worth it. Using the basics is fairly simple and once those are mastered, finding uses for the other features makes things so much easier. It has taken me a bit of time to get used to it, to figure out how to use it to suit my own needs. But now that I am, I am loving it. I will most likely do another post with how I actually set it up and use it (not a how-to, since there are quite a few better examples of that). I know I find it helpful to see how others use it for their own writing, so I will do that later on.
onenoteThough most of my writing and notes and research are in Scrivener, I do still use OneNote for a few little things. I like to print out inspiration pictures so inserting the pictures in there is a bit easier since I do use an odd size sheet because of the WriteMind and while you can insert pictures into Scrivener, I like the bit more freedom I have in OneNote, for pictures at least.
asusOf course, both OneNote and Scrivener are on my little laptop. It’s a 2-in-1 Asus Tranformer Book. I love this little thing. It is a 7 inch screen which works well. One of the requirements for a writing laptop for me at the time was portability. I was using a 17 inch Dell and it was just too big to take with me. This is a great size and very portable. It runs Windows 10 rather well (after dealing with 10 being annoying) and allows me to use all the other programs I need like Scrivener, OneNote, Word, and anything else.
wordI use Microsoft Word to print out my notes. Scrivener has a wonderful compile function that converts your Scrivenings into a Word document. I find it much easier to get the formating I need by compiling notes into Word and then printing them from there.

writemindI need the notes because I put them into my WriteMind Journal. I will most likely be doing another post on the WriteMinds to show them off, so for right now, I have to say that they are wonderful. I like to write long-hand when I’m having issues, or sometimes when I’m out and about and can’t take my laptop with me. It’s small and compact and I keep all my notes in there.

Aside from the actual tools, I often need some form of noise. This takes the form of music or sometimes a show or movie I’ve seen quite a lot that becomes background noise. A cup of tea or a drink is also a requirement. While all that is wonderful, there are times I don’t have that. Like when I’m at work. I always carry my WriteMind with me though so I can jot down any ideas that may strike me… which they often do because my characters like to give me ideas at the most inopportune moments! But this way, ideas are not completely lost.
This is just a quick run down on what I use for writing.  As I said, I will be doing some more detailed posts on a few of the items and programs I use as well as what my actual routine may look like.  So stay tuned for those!

Book Review: Structuring Your Novel

Title: Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland
Medium: Book
Genre: Nonfiction (writing, how-to)

Initial Thoughts: The moment I hit the Introduction, I was very happy. I’ve always been an instinctual writer. I had read so much that I think I was using story structure without ever really knowing it. But just by reading the introduction, I get a sense of what story structure is and how it’s used, not just in writing, but in all art. As I read further, not only was I given some very clear definitions of structure, but given some concrete examples. And these examples were a variety, which was extraordinarily helpful. I’ve read several “How to” books now, particularly on writing as I am really trying to get serious about the craft, but one of the things that they lack is examples. Oh sure, most of them have something in there, just to give a hint about what they mean, but the examples the author gives are varied, so you can see what is possible.

Favorite Part: Definitely the examples! Not only were the definitions clear and something I could grasp, but adding in those examples, both in the explanations as well as at the end of each segment, was something that was super helpful! Especially as we went from overall story structure, then to scene structure, and even to sentence structure!

Overall Impression: I have enjoyed this book tremendously. I think it will help me to become a better writer and already, I have thought of something for a current work-in-progress that I think will be a much more solid opening than I had. In fact, I had been struggling with it for a bit. But reading this book gave me what I needed to get a much stronger opening that I think will help keep me on track for the rest of the book. I really couldn’t find anything I disliked about it or didn’t agree with other than maybe giving percentages on where certain things fall, but that’s more because when I see percentages, my mind skitters away from them XD. That doesn’t have to do with the book, though.

Recommendation: For anyone struggling with a current WIP, or for anything that has questions on story structure, especially if you haven’t been able to grasp it after reading other how-to’s on writing, this is a great resource and one I highly recommend!

To read this one and more of K.M. Weiland’s books, head to her website!

Huzzah!

Hello out there! So I survived another November and another Nano. It was a tough one. This entire year has been tough it seems. But one thing I’ve learned: I want to write. I want to complete a project, from first rough, horrible draft to a polished piece that others may want to read, even pay for! So, to that end, I am going to do my very best to actually do that. As I embark on this journey, I plan on updating this blog once a week. I know I have been terrible in doing that, but I am making a promise to try and stick to that schedule. I am going to utilize scheduling on WordPress since I think that will save me quite a bit.
At this point and time, I think Fridays will be the easiest day to make sure I can get something up by, so expect something each Friday! I am sending this one today, of course, in order to let those of you who read my rather sporadic updates, that I am going to strive to be a better writer, and a better blogger. For now, I am going to concentrate on writing craft, book reviews, maybe a few bits and bobs of other things or thoughts on writing in general. Later on, I may start posting a few rough drafts of various works I’m pecking away on.
Just as a quick aside, I did win NaNo this year, though it was a very rough year. I struggled through 3 projects. Only the last one seemed to help any with the terrible lack of focus I suffered through this year. Still working on that a bit, though I’m running into bits and snags in my motivation. I keep wanting to take a break, just let my brain rest, but then that’s when my characters pipe up with, “Oh, but what about this idea? Or this one? You totally should do this!” -.- I think this is their revenge for what I put them through when I write.
I am happy I won this year, though I am disappointed. My initial goal was to get 100k words in for November, or at the very least, finish the manuscript I had started. That didn’t work out and by the end, I was struggling just to get the 50k. I got it though and now I get to use the discount to purchase a full copy of Scrivener. I started using that this year and I love it. It’s great. It’s so flexible… in some ways, it’s almost too flexible. So I’m currently doing some exploring on how best to set things up for myself to make writing as seamless for me as I can. Once I find it, I will be including that in a blog post, but it might be a while XD
As it stands now, I am giving myself a bit of a break (or trying to anyway) by doing a bit of reading! So look for a book review this Friday! That’s all for now! Thanks for reading and happy writing!