A few years ago, I read an interview where my writing hero revealed that she is a plotter – she uses extensive outlines detailing each scene of her novel. I thought that was the only way, and when I learned that it wasn’t, it frustrated me. There isn’t a perfect blueprint for plotting a novel, nor is there one for the actually writing of one. There are endless books and blogs that claim they have it figured out, but perhaps it isn’t so black and white. What works for me may not work for you. Understanding what works for others helps can inspire us – although nothing gets the job done more than simply sitting down and trying something. Here’s a condensed list version of my journey.

What works for me:

  • Keeping a writing journal for each project. This is different than strictly plotting on a story. Before I write the first word, I come up with the backstory so I have a foundation. As I start the first draft, I record every miniscule idea in the journal so (hopefully) no idea is at risk of being forgotten.
  • Maintaining weekly writing goals. I’ve been trying out soft deadlines – something to motivate me, but not something so challenging I have a panic attack.
  • Utilizing the lovely features on Microsoft Word. Want spell and grammar check? Want to change the name of a character after you write the first draft, but don’t want to manually locate the 148 places where you used it? Using such features on Word cuts time suckers and distractions from my writing/editing time.
  • Interviewing my characters. I’ve heard this is a good way to get to know your character, and so I tried it last week. It was extremely fascinating – and all of a sudden ideas for more subplots where coming out of nowhere.
  • Writing to music. I love finding music that fits the vibe of my story. For my current project, a novel with a medieval feel, I’ve been listening to music from Narnia, Brave, and any instrumental Irish music I can find.

What doesn’t work for me:

  • Creating detailed outlines. I enjoy my freedom.
  • Daily word count goals. I’m terrible at remembering to do any one thing every day. And let’s be honest – I like making realistic goals. Will I really be powering away at my novel on the day I have four college finals?
  • Handwriting stories. Some people say they love they love writing on a tangible page. I started out writing this way, but now I am a lazy handwriter. Hm. This pencil is hurting my hand, so I’ll just skip that crucial scene I was going to write. Even though it doesn’t make much sense, I can end the story here…
  • Writing with distractions. I’ve heard of stay-at-home moms who can write with a handful of kids in the room. I find it hard to concentrate with a window open.
  • Procrastinating. Just because I do it doesn’t mean it’s effective for me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! What do you do differently? 

~ Felicity

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