Monday, December 6, 2010

A New Beginning

For those of you who missed my Saturday post, I will recap.

I scrapped the book I was working on and started another one. Yep. It was painful, but necessary.

Yesterday I wrote most of the day, and have a sizable word count for the story: 11, 7oo words. I am happy with my progress, but now I have reached the point where I am not sure what happens next.

After so many failed starts on books this year, I did some light pre-writing planning on this WIP for a couple of days, and just dived into writing. At this point, I just want to write a book. I missing writing a book, and it was very depressing each time something derailed the others. So I have started this book while the premise and few events I have in mind are still white hot in my mind.

This has lead to a hybrid between pantsing (writing by the seat of my pants) and plotting. I haven't quite plotting enough for me to consider the book "plotted." I have a rough idea for the beginnning, and a rough idea for the end, and one or two scene ideas in the middle, but that's it.

I have about ten pages of notes on the characters, the conflict, the themes, and worldbuilding, but this is nothing compared to the planning I usually do. Especially that big gap in the middle of my scrawny outline.

Yesterday's writing was mostly effortless. I knew how to start things off, and I knew where I was headed. I had a good feel for the world and the characters. But now I am at the point where I don't know what happens next. And a tiny voice in my head started to panic, until I threw it some chocolate.

I do know what I think will be the ending, so now I am just trying to get from here to there by asking myself some questions and doing some light brainstorming.

Just in case there's anyone else out there who is trying something new or just plain stuck here are some good questions to kick start the plot:

*What is the worst thing that could happen next?

I listed some silly things, like "a swarm of bees attacks everyone and they all die." just because I was pleased my Muse was tossing ideas out at all. I actually came up with some pretty good ones that I will use later.

*What is the best thing that could happen next?

I had less ideas for this one. Generally I am trying to make my characters miserable, not happy. But happy is good, just to make the awful stuff more awful. ;)

After I had a good pool of possible events, I thought about how the characters would respond to these events, and how that would effect the world in turn. There should be a certain amount of pull-push between the characters, the plot, and the world.

It still feels really strange, this new writing process. I feel like I am in a dark room, and groping around for the light switch. But I am trying not to panic, and just focus on the next scene.  In addition to being a logical outcome of what has come before, and something that advances the plot and character development, I am making sure it's a scene that I WANT to write. No filler scenes that are "necessary". If the scene is boring me to write, it's going to bore the reader to read it. 

Chocolate is also helping. I am really happy with this new WIP. I feel like I am finally on the right track, and I am writing about something that is coming from my heart. 

Has anyone else tried a totally different writing process for a book? How did that turn out? How did you get over that incredibly uncomfortable feeling?


  1. I remember when I switched from plotting to pantsing. I thought it was impossible to write a book without knowing where the plot was going. How could you write anything with any sense of internal consistency if you just bumbled around until you found the end?

    What happened instead was a very useful type of tunnel vision. I ignored the larger story and focused just on the chapter I was writing. Then when I got to the end of that one, I knew/could feel where the next chapter should be (this is even easier with third person limited where it's almost entirely a succession of events).

    Usually I'll know what is coming for the next two-four chapters. I've known as much as 8 or 10. It gives me enough foresight to know how to craft the chapters without getting overwhelmed by the enormity of what I still need to create.

    With my current wip, I think I've never known what was coming for more than the next chapter until I get to the last five and could finally see the conclusion.

  2. Good luck Elizabeth. I'm totally a pantser/light plotter. It is very much like digging for treasure, you never know what you will dig up.

    I'm glad you have a great new idea, and I say go with it! Wish I could send you some of my favorite chocolates.

  3. Joe: thanks. I seem to be developing this tunnel vision, but not having the major events is throwing my pacing off. I guess I will see what happens!

    Charity: thanks! I appreciate the cyber chocolates! Digging for treasure is a great analogy.

  4. Chocolate always helps. It's amazing the curative powers in chocolate, in such a variety of ailments, mental and physical.

    Short stories, I always kept in my head. That's why I was terrified by the prospect of a novel initially. Outlining - the very word filled me with loathing. At least, until I did it. (I was pleasantly surprised to learn that outlining a novel is radically different from the essay outlining they taught me in elementary school.)

    My second novel, I had an outline, but for a very long while into the writing process, I oscillated between "it's one story/it's two stories" and so I didn't know a number of things about it until I got there. I found more plot elements cropped up the more I worked on character development in that one.

    It will be interesting to see how your experiment turns out!