If you look for my stories online, you will, unfortunately, come up empty. That being said, it doesn't mean that I am not an author, writer, and storyteller. Currently, I have one novel that still needs one more edit and a read through, and a second WIP that is taking me far too long to complete.
In my current WIP, I winged it for the first four chapters, and then my writing dried up. I was unsure of what and where I wanted to take the main character. Should have her delve in long-forgotten dungeons, or take her out and about the land I have created looking for adventures along the way? I was stalled. I didn't know my direction, or hers, so I began to jot down some ideas. I floundered in a lake of uncertainness, at least that is how it felt to me, and then while lying in bed, it came to me, write a synopsis of the story. It was a great idea, not original, but great nonetheless. There was a problem though. I was using Open Office, and that made it difficult to keep my ideas, and plot lines organised.
It was a successful writer that I follow that suggested using Scrivener. I have to be honest, I wasn't too keen on buying a new program for my writing, but it had a thirty-day free trial, so I thought, What the heck, and I downloaded it. Once I got past the extensive tutorial I started moving my WIP from Open Office to the new platform. I'm not going to get into all of the great things that Scrivener does for you, but I will share how it helped me keep on track.
Scrivener is great for being able to make notes while you're writing, and It gives you an easy way to keep track of your plot lines, current, and to come, by the use of it's 'Cork Board' feature. Characters, locations, and anything else you need to keep organised can be kept in the 'Binder', for easy access. I'll give you one example. You begin your story with your character, we'll call him Ted. Ted arrives in the Tower of Lonely Ghosts and has to find his way out of the situation you have put him in. First, you will make a Character template, name it Ted, and provide all the details you currently have about him. You will add his appearance, fears, what gets under his skin, and lastly, you will add that he starts in the tower and why; as the story continues, you will add to the character and keep track of changes by referencing the chapter and page he appears in. Secondly, you will create a Location template and do much the same as you did with the Character sheet, except this time you will mark all those who make appearances in the tower and when. Scrivener is great for keeping you organised and reduces the chances of creating plot holes and such.
When trying to keep track of the distance between locations, and weather changes, for example, I can't say enough about creating a map to keep your mind focused on where your MC is at all times. There is a great, free program out there called Inkarnate. The map-making tool allows you to create awesome maps that will help you to remember things such as, Ted having moved on to the Withering Wastes, which is very much a desert. No rain will fall here, and Ted's armour needs to be carried because it's much too hot to wear, and again, you will make note of this place in Scrivener by adding that Ted has arrived, and why. You will also make notes on the location, and any persons of interest that dwell in it.
You can see how using tools like the ones listed above can make your life much easier, and so far they have helped me stay on track.
Anyway, I have digressed from my earlier thoughts of me wanting to outline, or summarize my story if you will. Knowing where to begin wasn't going to be the issue. I knew where I was, and kind of where I wanted to go with my WIP, but the future of my character remained cloudy. After much contemplation, I decided to write down how I wanted the book to end, and after an hour or so of making notes, I was happy with the finale, and I added the folder to Scrivener, but I still needed to get the MC from where she was, to where I wanted her to be.
My plan of attack was simple. First I would make notes of major and minor events I wanted her to experience. I placed them in a time line, first to last in the 'Binder', and then I filled in the rest of the story by doing a summary of each chapter, making notes of plots, locations, and characters as I went. Over the course of two days, I spent my time evolving from coffee to gin, while I lead my MC through the story of her life quests and journeys. Surprisingly enough, the outline I had created flowed nicely and smashed down the writer's block that I had created for myself. It was a win. I don't think I could have done it without the tools I had gathered. Writers of old must have torn their hair out trying to keep track of everything.
Now, to be fair. The first novel that I wrote was written wholely on Open Office and I think I did fairly well keeping track of everything. I guess the difference is that it was written in a first-person tense, where my current work is not. Why that makes a difference, I can't say, but in my little brain, it does.
In conclusion, I won't go as far as to say that my way of doing things is the best, but it did help me get to a point where I could easily carry on my WIP without struggling with trying to find direction and a purpose for my MC.
I hope this helps to alleviate some of the many challenges we all go through as we crawl along, hoping to give our readers out there a satisfying ending to our tall tales.
I am an unpublished author, more by choice than by failure.I wrote my first novel a couple of years ago. My daughter had me do the Na No writing challenge and I came up with an eighty thousand word story that I keep editing, over and over. I've written a books worth of poetry that I like, but it's very dark in its nature, and I'm working on a fantasy novel right now. I also do some beta reading here and there.
I live in a small town in South Western Ontario with my wife, son, and two energetic Springer Spaniels.
You can find me on Twitter @NormBoyington
Most writers struggle with the dreaded Writer’s Block—but I’ve never had this problem. Here are some of the tricks I use to keep the words flowing. Hopefully, they will help you too!
Reading really is the most important tool for becoming a better writer. With all of the formats available (print, eBook, audio, dramatization, graphic novels), there’s a storytelling format to fit everyone’s lifestyle. Be sure to read widely, not just within your own genre, as this will prevent you from accidentally emulating other authors’ styles. Read critically. What do you think an author has done well? What about their methods bother you? What would you do differently? You can learn from books you don’t enjoy as much as from those you love.
Try: Setting a limit (1 chapter or half-an-hour), and then sit down to write. See how your creative juices are jogged by imbibing stories.
Planning prevents you from stalling. Different types of writers prefer to be more concrete or more exploratory; some don’t anchor their outline until revisions. Whenever you choose to implement them, guidelines will help keep you on track and show the way forward when you get stuck. Figure out the answers to these basic questions: What do your characters want? What experiences will make them grow? What is their end-goal?
Try: Prepare point-form goals for each chapter (such as a key action, mood, or revelation); write a scene for each point.
Community builds your enthusiasm for the project, from gleaning insight into other writers’ processes, to trouble-shooting sticky points in your WIP. Your fellow writers provide fresh perspectives and may highlight inconsistencies you hadn’t noticed.
Try: Joining a critique group, forum, or exchanging work with beta readers. Send them guidelines for what kind of feedback you’re seeking.
Prompts can get you out of a rut. They can push you to explore genres, personas, or techniques you don’t typically use in your projects. They can help you discover backstory or motivations, and think outside the box. Find prompts online, in exercise books, or in writing courses. Consider prompts that test your weaknesses: unusual topics, dialogue, plot device, character, genre, time period, or circumstance.
Try: Working in short story formats; when the work is shorter, you can explore themes or ideas that you couldn’t sustain over a full-length book. You may even be able to polish and submit these exploratory works.
Change it up! If you’re having difficulty concentrating, getting up and stretching re-oxygenates your brain. Determine your ideal writing environment for lighting, hydration, comfort, ambient sound, etc. If you feel stagnant, try writing in a new location.
Try: Certain writing apps set reminders, rewards, or penalties; if you need an extra boost to hit your goals, consider Write-O-Meter, DabbleWriter, or Write Or Die.
Remember, every writer has a different pace and process. Set attainable and sustainable goals. You will feel much more productive hitting smaller regular goals that if you burn out writing six-thousand words for three days straight and then nothing for six months. Keep experimenting and find your sweet spot. After all, your story won’t write itself!
As a queer author focused on inclusive worldbuilding, Astra Crompton seeks to write complex characters whose identities, sexualities and motivations span across a nuanced spectrum. She has published short stories in anthologies including Blood Moon Rising and Anthology for a Green Planet, and for the tabletop RPG game Unity. She also has a number of self-published short stories, graphic novels, and a novel available. You can find her work at www.astracrompton.com
Word Crafting is a blog to help writers strive for excellence. If you would like to be a guest blogger, pitch me an idea.