So all of us have different styles of writing, and I am naturally a quicker writer, words flow, sometimes faster than my 60wpm fingers can type. Other times, not so much. So this year I added to my prep work before typing my first sentence. I hope you find something you can use among the tools I’ve found that help me best.
So I write romance, steamy to erotic usually, and I believe character rules in romance, not that I ignore plot. So first I get to know my characters. I use up to three tools, depending on how secretive my character is being –as you know—some won’t quit yammering in your head.
My go to character steps include the Character Target Tool and Character Pyramid Tool because they focus on traits that lead to emotions and emotions that reflect action. This way my characters do more than smile every time they are happy. I am sold on the whole Positive Trait, Negative Trait and Emotion Thesaurus series. They also have lots of other handy questions. I also use a character questionnaire for quiet characters, like this one, but there are thousands if you google it.
So now I know my characters. I then write their internal and external Goal Motivation Conflict. Simple stuff. Avery wants the town and bikers to get along because she secretly wants to be a biker’s old lady but her father is the main voice against the motor cycle club.
Once I get that down, I move to plot. Here I have to say thank you to Jamie Gold’s blog for these awesome Excel spreadsheets for plot. I like Story Engineer best but have used them all and now have created my own sheets that fit my plotting style. These excel sheets give you the key plot points for a book on an excel sheet. Based on awesome magic, not only does it give you descriptions of what those points should do, it gives you a corresponding word count where each one of these happen. I fill the skeleton of my plot into these worksheets, and make sure the ideas I have actually work, and that I have enough conflict. Pacing and good conflict were two of my early weaknesses.
Then I outline, you outline to the degree you want, I just use bullet points that encompass the chapter’s POV, a couple sentences about setting, word count for the chapter, and 5-7 plot points for the chapter… Generally my chapters are about 4,000 words long. As I outline, I match my word count in the spread sheet. For example, fun and games begins at about 20,000 words and is where the characters usually get to know each and fall in love. I make sure I outline lots of good sex and fun dates, along with some minor disasters in this section. This outlining method helps me make sure I have tension, highs and lows in each chapter and give each major plot point enough attention. Unless I’m working with a publisher who needs a synopsis before I write the book, this is where I start writing. Otherwise I complete the dreaded synopsis.
My last hint is how I sit my butt down to put words on paper. I like to write in 15 to 30 minute blocks with no interruptions. But sometimes, I don’t know a fact or remember a name, so I use this trick…. I type #restaurantname and move on to the next sentence. Now, I use *** to mark scene, POV, or time breaks in chapters, if you use ### then pick another symbol. The beauty of this is that you can search the symbol and go back later and fill in the blanks easily, without missing any. Writing is an art and a craft. I find that my best writing comes when I write every damn day. When I take breaks, days or weeks, I have to retrain my body and mind to write again. And that sucks.
So why do you care? This formula has given me about an extra 1,000 words a session as I have lots less time I need to stare into space deciding what should happen now. Instead I keep writing. Last year I completed four novel-length books, this year my goal is five. And to be fair, I give you this disclaimer, I work full-time, do kids, family and all the stuff that keeps everyone busy. Generally I have two hours a day to write, occasionally more, and on some days no time.
You can use these tools whether you are a panster or a plotter, and believe it or not, I’m primarily a panster, as my characters change the freakin’ plot all the time, and I don’t outline in depth. But this style keeps me from needing to cut pages of back story or too much sex, and gets my first draft done in 3 to 8 weeks, depending on my motivation and focus. Happy writing! And feel free to email me if you have questions!