Confession time: I go through a lot of notebooks. A lot. I’m talking oodles of doodles, piles of paperwork, sizable, human-crushable stacks of my semi-legible scribblings. I may be single handedly responsible for the destruction of a hectare or more of precious Amazonian rainforest, who’s to tell??
I’ve already introduced you to my Revision Binder, where I keep all my editing notes for my WIPs. In addition to that binder, though, I like to keep a spiral notebook for all my daily scribblings and note-takings. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still fill files and files and folders upon folders on my computer with my brilliant (or belligerent, again, who’s to tell) prose. but there’s something about the tactile experience of putting pen to page that helps me to sort out my thoughts like no other. Sometimes I’ll stop writing a scene on the computer and switch to working it through in a notebook, just because it makes my brain feel better.
Now, when I finish these notebooks, they’re not always in the best of shape. I tend to ink the pages till they’re black and blue, and bend and twist the spine beyond all recognition. But, in the beginning, my notebooks are pristine, adorable, and earnestly organized. What I’m getting at is, it’s almost the start of the month, and so it’s high-time I put together my writing notebook for the month of September — and it’s highly advisable that I take photos of the process now, before I muck it all up with my sloppy handwriting and tendency to leave cold, wet drinks sitting on my open notes. (Oops.)
If you’ve ever been interested in creating a notebook dedicated to your writing, or you’re just curious how I set mine up, settle in! I’ve got pictures and an unhealthy addiction to washi tape to show you.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m still nostril-deep in revisions for my WIP. As I’m revising, I find myself taking the story on chapter by chapter, and really examining the ways in which I can make each individual chapter satisfying, exciting, and, most importantly, contribute in a vital way to the plot overall.
So, what does make for a good chapter? I can think of five key attributes successful, satisfying chapters have in common. If you’re writing or revising your novel, here are some things to look for:
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?