Hello, Happy Writers! Tomorrow is my birthday (Cue the confetti cannons and cart in the seven layer ice cream cake, thank you very much — what, you mean you didn’t get me a seven layer ice cream cake? Well, fine.) As I try to scrounge my brain to appease the relatives impatiently asking me what I want them to buy me for my birthday (bookstore gift cards, please and thanks), it got me thinking — it can be difficult to buy gifts for writers.
Writers tend to be reclusive, introverted, quiet little creatures who are happiest when left alone in our own worlds. So, what do you get a writer who has no immediate need for anything? What do writers want?
Here are some ideas:
Today, I want to talk about the Midpoint Mirror Moment, a facet of novel plotting that TOTALLY changed the way I outline. Now, in this post, I reference the elements of plot structure from my previous post, Plotting In a Pinch: A Quick Guide to Plotting Your Novel. It might be helpful to read that blog first, if you’re unfamiliar!
When editing your novel, there is nothing so helpful as getting a good, firm grip on the central story you’re telling, the character’s emotional arc, the thruline this book is meant to be about. You want a book with a satisfying connection between the beginning, middle, and end. But how do you go about achieving that?
I bring you: The Midpoint Mirror Moment.
I doubt any writer enjoys answering the question, “Where do all your ideas come from?” Because the answer for most of us is very boring, unhelpful, and hard to understand:
“Nowhere. They just pop in my head.”
It’s the truth, though, or at least it’s the truth for me. Story ideas just sort of spring to mind more or less fully formed, aching to break out of my skull like Athena sprouting fully grown from Zeus’s noggin. The problem, though, stems from deciding which story to write, and how exactly to focus that frantically hopping plot bunny.
If you’re having trouble whittling down your teeming pile of story ideas to The One You Should Work On, I have some tips to share…
Finding a fitting title for your novel can be a frustrating, tear-inducing, hair-pulling process. As I understand, editors and publishers might toy with and tweak your title before your book is published, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a strong working title for your WIP! A unique title will help your query stand out as you seek publication, and having a title that fits your work well can keep you focused on the overall message of your story as you write it.
So, how do you select a fitting title? There’s a billion methods, but here’s a few strategies that could work for you:
Whenever I’m developing a plot for a story, I feel a little like a seamstress trying to make a whole quilt out of a few scattered, seemingly mismatched patches. I have a sense of an ending, a few random visuals or snippets of dialogue, and, if I’m lucky, the mental images of three or four characters I want to go on this journey with. The act of writing then becomes finding more patches and an overall working pattern to connect all this disparate pieces into something warm and snuggable, that you want to wrap up with in front of a cozy fire.
What I’ve found is that, when you’re still in the process of brainstorming ideas of your story, it can help to take a good long look at your characters. Ask yourself, what are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? And how can I use those strengths and weaknesses to create the successes and triumphs of that character’s story arc?
This month’s Beautiful People Meme (hosted by PaperFury and Sky @ Further Up and Further) is all about the Writer’s Process. If you’re a writer looking for a glorious link-up to participate in, head on over to the blog and snag the questions! And if you’re curious about the ins and outs of my writing process, keep reading!
1. How do you decide which project to work on?
A highly scientific process of data collection and cost/benefit determination, of course.
With all this talk about the editing process and organizing a writing binder, it can’t be stated enough that every writer has a different, personal approach to tackling a story. Some like to research extensively before they ever put pen to page; others prefer to shoot through their story, slapping notes like [INSERT FLOWER NAME HERE] for Future!Them to figure out later. (I may or may not be this type of writer, and it may or may not be endlessly frustrating.) Some writers like to have their story meticulously plotted, others like to fly by the seat of their pants. When it comes to writing the actual meat of a story, there seems to be three distinct categories a writer might fall into:
The Straight Shooter, the Moonwalker, and the Jumping Bean.
These writers are like Jon Lovett: straight shooters widely respected on both sides. They begin at the beginning and end at the end, always writing in sequential or chronological order. Chapter One is completed, then Chapter Two, then Chapter Three, and so on. Whether drafting or editing, they stick to the story exactly as it’s meant to be told.
Pros of the Straight Shooter: These writers tend to be well organized, and working in strict sequential order keeps them in the headspace of their story. They get a good feel for how the plot naturally unfolds, traveling with it each step of the way.
Cons of the Straight Shooter: If Chapter Seven is giving the Straight Shooter trouble, it can be very difficult for them to move onto Chapter Eight. (A funny, nagging feeling starts plucking at their brain, oftentimes somewhere behind the right eyeball, and it can be obnoxiously difficult to get rid of–the only known remedy is to cave and go back to Chapter Seven.) They might feel the need to have every chapter in order before they’re “allowed” to move onto the next, and sometimes this can cause major stalls in the writing process.