Thursday, May 26, 2011

How do you jumpstart a scene?

In regard to plot stagnation, Raymond Chandler famously said, "When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand."

TV Tropes has a lot of fun discussing what they've dubbed "Chandler's Law," and comparing it to parallel plot devices in TV, comics, films and video games.  I've heard that NaNoWriMo participants often run out of steam during the second week, and have to rely on quick, sometimes outrageous plot devises to keep their "writer's high" (and word count) going. The only time I attempted NaNo, I didn't even make it through the first week, so I'm not exactly an expert.

When your story doesn't seem to want to move forward, how do you jumpstart it? Have you ever used the same fix twice? Did it work?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

When it Comes to First Drafts, What Kind of Writer Are You?

If you haven't already seen it, I highly recommend you check out Jennifer Wolf's recent blog post on Pantsers vs Outliners (i.e. the difference between people who write by the seat of their pants, and those who prefer to outline). It reminded me of a conversation I had this past weekend with the lovely Kristen Kittscher, who recently sold her middle-grade mystery. We were discussing the different ways one can write a first draft.

I also polled some of my Writing Night pals (thanks, Amy, Hope and Jen!) and they were split. One prefers to jump in and enjoy the discovery of seeing where the story goes; another prefers to outline, and the third does a combination of the two, depending on the project. Here are the different categories I believe people fall into when it comes to first drafts:

The Perpetual Starter - You have twenty stories you want to write, and none that you want to finish (this was me last year)

The Polisher - You rewrite the beginning 17,000 times before you feel "right" continuing (this is me now)

Quick Like a Bunny - You churn out 5,000 words a day for several weeks and have yourself a first draft within a month (sadly, I have never been this person and probably never will be)

The Jumper - You jump from scene to scene, writing your favorite or most important moments first, and then fill in the blanks later (I don't often do this, but I know it works for some)

I've come to accept the fact that I'm not a fast first-drafter. Sure, I have moments of "Must sit down and write this scene now! GO GO GO!" inspirational frenzies, but for the most part, I'm a Polisher, sometimes to my benefit and sometimes to my detriment.

When you write your first draft, do you fit into any of the categories above? Are there types that I'm missing?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pitch the Book You'd Want to Read

A couple weeks ago a friend asked me what my new project was about, and before I realized what I was doing, I'd typed up a paragraph synopsis that sounded pretty awesome.

Too awesome, in fact. It wasn't accurate! Some of the elements I'd mentioned weren't even part of the story, or at least not yet. I didn't do it on purpose. By wanting the story to sound as intriguing as possible, I'd overshot. That's when I realized I hadn't pitched my project. I'd pitched the project I wanted to be writing.

It sounded better in the paragraph than it did so far on the page, and I vowed to make my manuscript live up to my pitch. Maybe that's a backwards way of going about it, but by giving myself a succinct challenge ("I must hit elements A, B, C and D in the novel or it won't reflect the logline"), I at least guarantee myself a draft in which I include all my favorite parts. Will it work, or will it be terrible? Stay tuned.

Have you ever pitched a partial manuscript? If you do pitch your project before you're done writing it, are you ever surprised by your own synopsis? Has it ever led you in a new direction?