Tag Archives: first draft

Why Do Writers Get Stuck Even When Writing With An Outline?

A quick tips video for you today — two reasons why you might get stuck in the middle of your first draft, even if you’re writing with a detailed plot outline.

 

P.S. I’ve been working on a secret project for a couple of weeks now, and it’s almost time to pull back the curtain!  More news coming soon…

Do You Have a System for Getting Unstuck?

Last week, we talked about how systems make it more likely that you’ll achieve your goal.  Today I’d like to talk about creating systems for overcoming the obstacles that we all hit at one point or another.

In other words, systems for getting unstuck.

Because we all work a little bit differently, one size doesn’t fit all here.  What helps me might not help you.  The first step in creating your “unblocking” system is to take a few minutes to think about how you’ve written in the past. Continue reading

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work (and What Does)

The idea that next year could be different–that we could be different–it’s almost irresistible, isn’t it? Next year could be the year we lose that weight, get organized, and write the novel that’ll make us famous.

So many of us set ambitious goals for ourselves in December, only to drop them before the end of January. The goals we dub “New Year’s resolutions” aren’t enough.

Sure, you start with the goal. Write a novel. Or a non-fiction book. Or a collection of short stories. Or a memoir.

That’s the “what.”

But you also need to create a system to help you achieve that goal. Continue reading

Editing for Story, Part 3: Scenes

Welcome to the third video in the Editing for Story series!

Today we’re talking about questions to help you evaluate the content of your scenes and look for overall patterns as you create your revision list.

The Editing for Story videos are a companion to the Editing for Story ebook–don’t forget to download your free PDF after you watch the video.

Neil Gaimain: On Writing Under Pressure, Inspiration, and Other Writerly Topics

This is a wonderful talk by Neil Gaiman on The Nerdist, especially apropos for National Novel Writing Month.

Here are a few quotes that struck home with me:

“For me, it’s always been a process of trying to convince myself that what I’m doing in a first draft isn’t important.”

“Nobody’s ever going to see your first draft. Nobody cares about your first draft. …Whatever you’re doing can be fixed. You can fix it tomorrow. You can fix it next week. For now, just get the words out, get the story down however you can get it down…”

“The weird thing is that six months later, a year later, you’ll look back at them and you can’t remember which scenes you wrote because you were inspired and which scenes you wrote because they had to be written next.”

Bookmark this one to watch when you hit those mid-month doldrums where it’s tempting to give up!

It’s Time to Write Some On-the-Nose Dialogue

It’s Day 8 of JulNoWriMo, and I’m writing some terrible dialogue.  It’s clunky.  It’s stilted.  It’s on-the-nose in that way that every writing teacher on the planet tells you dialogue shouldn’t be.

I’m declaring this to be a good thing.

Why?

We’ve all had the experience of having a conversation with someone who isn’t being as nice as they could be.  Someone who doesn’t have a problem looking you in the eye and saying something kind of condescending.  Or rude.  Or just downright idiotic.

And we’ve all had the experience of not knowing how to reply.  So we bite our tongues, or stutter an “excuse me”, or just shake our heads and change the topic.

Then, a week later, we’re in the shower rehashing that conversation and voila, it shows up–the perfect retort.  “That’s what I should have said!” we explain to our uncaring shampoo bottle.

Because that annoying conversation is still bothering us, and deep in our heads, some part of our brain was still trying to come up with a response.

The bad news is that I don’t have any advice for being wittier at parties.

The good news is that you can use your brain’s tendency to get stuck on the dumb stuff you said a week ago to be a better writer.

First, you have to actually write the crappy dialogue.  Let it be horrible.  Let your characters make fools of themselves.  Let them spill their guts all over the page of your first draft.

Second, each night before you go to bed at night, pick a horrible section and read it before you go to sleep.  Allow the awfulness of this passage to bother you.  Not that you wrote it, but that your characters spoke it.  Be bothered by the fact that one of your beloved characters didn’t get the last word.  Imagine how embarrassed your hero that he sounded like a total dorkhead.

Then sleep on it.

Repeat until you find yourself staring off into the distance at the grocery store checkout line, mumbling that perfect line of dialogue over and over again so you won’t forget it by the time the cashier hands over your receipt.

I can’t tell you how soon you’ll start having those, “That’s what she should have said!” moments.  I’m starting to come up with better lines for the scenes I wrote back on Days 1 and 2.  That’s about right…that’s how long it takes me to come up with the perfect retort in real life too.  But my subconscious might be a lot slower than yours.

Here’s the passage from my WIP that I’ll be chewing over tonight:

“I don’t want my record expunged,” Soji said.  “I want a fair trial and I want to choose my own lawyer.”

Ghost cocked her head.  “You liked being court-martialed so much, you want to do it again?”

“I didn’t hide those drugs in the convoy.  Someone else did.  And they got away with it.”

“Revenge,” Shadow said softly.

Soji shook his head.  “Justice.”

“You’re hired,” Ghost said.

“Incidentally,” Shadow added, “when you accessed the file on your new bounty, your implant received an upgrade that will keep us informed of your location at all times.”

He took out neural inducer and tossed it to the floor in front of Soji.

Soji picked up the tiny patch—a sleeper.  He’d be unconscious for fifteen minutes, during which time they would be free to do who-knew-what to him.  I already hate this job.

“What if I need to contact you before I get to the rendezvous?”

“That would be unfortunate.”

Join in the fun–pick a run of dialogue from your work-in-progress that you’d like to improve and try this technique. 

If you want to save me from being the only person sharing first-draft awfulness with the world and post a snippet here, you’ll earn my undying gratitude and a virtual high-five for your bravery.