Good Advice Ignored

Since this is supposed to be a “live blog” of the writing process for a specific story, maybe I should give an update on where things stand at present and on what is coming next.

Not all is sunshine and rainbows, unfortunately.  I mentioned a few posts back the advice from Chuck Palahniuk about forcing yourself to write at least an hour a day, no matter what.  It is very, very good advice.  And, like all good advice, I don’t always listen…which is why there was no post last Friday.

The first part of the update is that I am somewhat stalled out right now.  Sadly, that stall is neither story- nor creativity-based, but is instead purely personal.  It’s been a bad week: there are times when life and all the shit that goes with it just plain get the best of me.

Chuck Ragan had a line perfect for my recent frame of mind in a song called “Nothing Left to Prove”:panda

Sometimes you reach for the bottle / Before the sky

I’ve got nothing else to say beyond that…except that maybe I will (finally) put up that one post I’ve been putting off.

At any rate, here is the rest of the update: the summaries are done for the main plot arc, as well as the various sub-arcs.  The only trouble I gave myself was with a new character I decided to insert.  There’s two different ways to go with her, and both have their good points.  I need to think and explore a bit more about that character before I really understand the right answer.

Having those summaries finished is an official Good Thing.  It’s like the sketch a painter puts on the canvas before the actual painting starts.  I have to have an idea where things are going before I can finish the rest of the prep.

Don’t get me wrong, things will change.  Some things will change drastically.  But such changes come from either the last step of the prep process, or from the writing process itself…and changes from those two sources make me happy as a writer.  It means the characters are speaking for themselves, and are telling me how they think things should go.

Yep, my characters talk to me.  Well, most of them do.  One of them just sits there and hums all the time.  He’s weird.

The last stage of prep work is finalizing all the character details.  Most of it you can probably imagine: vital details, motivations, background, etc…  None of that is new, nor in any way unusual.

What is kinda weird, however, are my “character synopses”.  These synopses are essentially summaries of the entire story from that character’s point of view.  These cover not just their motivations and drives, but also their opinions and interpretations of different events and the other characters.  It is a fantastic way (I think, anyway) to look at the story from different angles…especially since, with this series, I am writing from just a single character’s POV.

This character work is the last “check” I have on how things are working before I create the actual scene list*.  One aside on that scene list: I  won’t actually have every single line item identified and ready.  Nor will every scene that I do have make the final cut for the manuscript…some just won’t work like I had envisioned.

What I do make sure to have finished and ready, however, are the first and fourth acts (yes, I use a four act model…hey, it works for me!).  The second and third acts – the middle of the story, the “meat” if you will – are less completely fleshed out.  Once I have written my way through the first, and at least part of the fourth, I have a better handle on what I need to do in the middle to make things come together.  By that time the characters have taken on a life of their own, anyway, and they love to throw their two cents’ worth into the process.

*I use a program called Scrivener to write.  Inside my story “container” I have an individual text document for each and every scene.  That layout lets me move stuff around easily, as well as making it much, much easier to access the manuscript without waiting for Word to spend 8 days opening a 120,000+ word document.  If you write longform stuff – whether fiction, nonfiction or script – I suggest you give it a try.  I recommend the full version completely and totally…the mobile version, well, not so much.

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