Growing as a Writer and a Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Sometimes, when it comes to art, getting stuck is exactly what the doctor ordered. I’ve had some issues with writer’s block this year. It’s not that I can’t write. On the contrary, I can sit in front of a blank page and write. Like most writers, I have no shortage of stories or words to tell them. But I realized that, while I can continue my current process, my current process isn’t working. It won’t get me where I want to go.

Every writers has some aspect of writing that doesn’t come easily. For me, it’s structure. I know how to write a scene, how to write chapter caps that leave readers itching to turn the page. No, right now, my biggest issue is with the flow of events. How do I get my characters from one place to another in a way that feels natural? How do I raise the stakes without writing my characters into a corner? If Character A does this in chapter X, what will happen in chapter Y? I suspect it’s not an uncommon problem, especially among pantsers.

photo from stock.xchng

I’ve realized I need a different approach. Past outlines I’ve written haven’t worked for me. The story comes out flat or the plot gets stuck. Sometimes, the characters don’t want to go into the kitchen; they don’t give a damn that the outline says it’s time to make tea and eat a scone. So how does a pantser like me–who often starts a story with an image, a character, a single scene–create a gripping plot?

Well, I’m still working on this. I don’t really want to spend years working on a single manuscript. I simply have too many stories to tell. Maybe I’m impatient, but I think it’s only practical to want to take our writing to the next level. I’m determined to smooth this issue out in my earlier drafts so my later drafts don’t need sweeping rewrites.

This week, I found a great resource: a “beat sheet” specifically for romance writers. (See the link to Jami Gold’s incredibly helpful post below.) I’ve reached a point where I need to both churn out new manuscripts and revise completed drafts. I can remain on my current pantser path, but I don’t really want to spend a couple years finishing a story, so there’s only one solution: Learn a new way. Which is exactly what I plan on doing. I have too many stories inside me not to.

What about you? Which aspect of writing have you most struggled with? How did you overcome this stumbling block?

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Stone circles and fairy rings: Imbue your life with a hint of magic and beauty with this post from Bealtaine Cottage.
Romancing the book: Jami Gold offers a beat sheet for writing romance.
Balancing the scenes: Kristen Lamb continues her series about structure with a discussion of scene.
Put your best blog forward: August McLaughlin discusses how and when to make changes to your blog.
Tips for NaNoWriMo: Romance author Maya Rodale, guest blogging over at Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen, dishes out a delicious portion of NaNoWriMo inspiration.

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5 thoughts on “Growing as a Writer and a Mash-Up of Awesomeness

  1. Thanks for linking to my blog. 🙂 I hope that beat sheet helps!

    And I sympathize with your pantser woes. I’m trying to write faster as well. So far, I’m ahead of the curve in NaNo, so we’ll see if I’ve got it figured out. Ha! Right? 😉

    • Thanks, Jami. The beat sheet is a great resource. 🙂 You’re right; it’s mostly an issue of speed. Not knowing where you’re going has a tendency to slow you down. Good luck with NaNo!

  2. I have the same trouble that you have because I’m a total pantser. The problem truly seems to be that no matter how much I outline, once I get into the story, the outline never fits, the characters rebel, a burst of inspiration/clarity takes us a new directions, and the opening scenes need to be re-written.

    I’m working on the third novel in the series I’m doing with a co-writer and we’re on our 9th draft. The first draft got stalled due to a lack of a specific resolution in mind, but once I’d gotten that down, we found a the problem shifted to character motivation. Sure we can say that now the character must do X thing, but the *why* of it was missing, and needed edited in from the beginning.

    Then we ran into word count limitation issues and had to get permission to expand the book’s size. Once that happened, everything seemed to free up, but rewrites of the beginning (less sweeping than the first set of rewrites) are still required due to continued refinement of motivations and characterization.

    It’s been a big mess and I’d like to find a method or formula for cranking these sorts of stories out like other folks seem to do, but, alas, I’m not sure that will ever work for me. I’m going to check out that beat sheet now and see if it feels helpful. 🙂 Good luck! I hope we both find a way to combine pantsing with a faster output!

    • Leta, let me know how the beat sheet method works out for you. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get an outline to work on a first draft, but time will tell. Every author needs to be true to her/his own creative process. Basically, what I’m trying to do is speed up my process. I look forward to hearing more about your latest WIP! 🙂

      BTW, I love the image you’re using in your avatar icon. Is that your artwork?

      • Sadly, no, it’s not my artwork. I sure wish I had that kind of artistic talent. 🙂 I will one day replace it with an appropriate picture of myself, but for now it is my stand in. I’ll let you know how the beat sheet works out. Good luck with your process, too! 🙂

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