I’m reading a book about writing with the longest name I’ve ever seen:
Screenwriting Tricks for Authors (and Screenwriters!): STEALING HOLLYWOOD: Story structure secrets for writing your BEST book, by Alexandra Sokoloff
I’m of the opinion you can read a million writing books and only take away a few things for your own writing toolbox. I also believe this is a good thing, as long as you spend more time actually writing than reading about it.
For most of my writing life I’ve been a ‘pantser,’ which means I write by the seat of my pants. This is great for a lot of writers. A famous example is Stephen King. He is also prolific so clearly it works for him. For me, not so much. I am great at coming up with ideas and starting stories but they fall apart at some point or end up going nowhere or change so much from what I envisioned in the beginning I don’t know where to take them.
I have tried doing some serious planning like my literary idol, Brandon Sanderson. It seemed to work better until I realized the story was too rigid and I hated it.
Finally I realized I am a hybrid, or as the people at Nanowrimo called me, a plantser. I do need some planning but not too much. I’ve studied various story structures to see if I can pull from them without being weighed down by them, hence the long titled book mentioned above.
Sokoloff uses the three act, eight sequence structure screenplays use. When the book was recommended to me I was wary because I thought I would feel hemmed in since I wasn’t quite reformed from my pantser ways. However, with the story I’m writing for Nanowrimo this year the 3 act structure is perfect.
What is great about doing it the way Sokoloff does it is you’re mostly using index cards pinned on a board, which I already do. It wasn’t too hard for me to then try the other steps she talked about. She instructs the reader to make lists, a lot of lists. If you know me at all you know I love my lists! This book is perfect for me.
There are some things I won’t use and some I will. I call that a win. I added to my arsenal and since I’m not finished reading it yet I anticipate adding more. I’m plotting my Nano project as I read and do the exercises and my planning is coming along nicely. I have a visual, flexible outline and while I know everything will change as I write at least I know where I mean to go and I can get back on track if I go in some random bad direction. Also, index cards are cheap. If I scrap the entire second half I can make new scene cards easily.
To be clear, I’m not trying to sell you a book. I’m talking about it because it’s working for me. It won’t for all writers. If it does for you then awesome!
Now about the actual story I’m writing this year. I many ideas and a few problems to work out. If you want a small sampling of what it’s about click here for a short story about the main character. The first problem I’ve encountered is main character’s name. Right now it’s Drae. I like the name but when I write about her I’m not sure it fits her. Also, my muse can’t decide what she looks like. I know she’s short, thin (tougher than she looks), shortish dark hair, dark eyes, slightly dark skin. I thought she was at least part Native American but now I don’t know. I’ve looked up pictures of famous Native American and Latina actresses to see if anyone fits how I picture her but I haven’t found anyone yet. No matter how I search, all I see is Selena Gomez and Victoria Justice and Drae is nothing like them.
That’s probably what made me start questioning her race. If I can’t find someone she resembles then maybe I’m wrong about who she is. Plus the name thing. Sometimes a name is a cultural thing and it’s important. I’ll eventually work it out but I hope it happens before November. How on earth am I supposes to write about someone I don’t know very well? It’s made even more difficult by a plot twist I can’t give away so I can’t even ask anyone for advice! Ah, writer problems, what a joy.
Other writing update: I haven’t written any short stories since the Story A Day September Challenge ended. I did write some notes for one but I haven’t taken the time to finish it because I’ve been busy with Nanowrimo planning. I hope to write a few pieces sometime this month. I’ll keep you updated. As for my main WIP, I’ve put it on the back burner until December or maybe January. Also I’ve toyed around with putting all my Wednesday and Saturday prompts together in e-book form and putting it up on Amazon. I’ll let everyone know once I make some decisions about it.
Minor medical update: I finished physical therapy and it didn’t work. I’ll see the pain doctor at the end of the month and we’ll see what he says. Cross your fingers for me.
Random Sidenote: I’m so happy it’s almost hot tea weather in Texas!