Thursday, November 05, 2009

Writing down the page

  • You know how sometimes an idea will pop into your head while you're writing something else? It's an obvious idea and you know you'll remember it so you slog through the scene and by the end you've forgotten what it was?
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  • You know how sometimes you'll hover over the keyboard, debating which choice to make and you just can't decide what would work best?
One of the Nanoers at our local kick off party mentioned a technique in Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray called:

Writing Down the Page

(I can't find a description on line so either she misremembered its name or no one else found it nifty, but I'm finding it useful! If anyone knows what it's called, please let me know!)

It's a way to capture fleeting ideas and get you writing instead of hovering.

If you use this for your whole NaNo (which I'm doing), you'll end up with a flowing collection of ideas. Which is a great way to send your internal editor on vacation since you may not be writing complete sentences and you're deliberately including a range of ideas some of which you know you'll eventually eliminate.

The important part is: don't write paragraphs. Hit carriage return after each sentence or snatch of an idea. It's going to look more like a poem, a long list, than a novel. It's a free flowing brainstorm. You can put an extra carriage return when you start a new idea and label it with some bold text.

Sometimes a fairly cohesive scene will flow out. (Mine is conforming to scenes and chapters.) Often it will be snatches of dialog. Bits of description. Questions for you to answer. Or half a dozen possibilities of what a character might do and why.

So if you're stuck, don't ponder. Write down the problem. Explore it right there in your Nano. Brainstorm a list of possibilities. If an idea for a scene comes up while you're doing that, write it down right where you are. (You can mark it with xxx to remind yourself to move it and expand it later.)

What I've done with it so far is, at the beginning of each chapter, I explore the character's desires (wants, objectives, goals). Each scene will have a goal (getting the demon nest rooted out, for example) as well as the character's greater goal of the novel hovering over them.

Then I explore obstacles (conflicts) I can throw in their way. (I tend to be too nice to my characters! Deliberately brainstorming obstacles keeps me focused on a story's engine: overcoming difficulties!) Each of these obstacles creates an evolving set of minigoals for the character to achieve (getting away from the annoying coworker, getting shoes that don't have a broken heel, for example).

Then I write down possible responses to the obstacles and how the character can reveal more of who he is, reveal more of what's going on in the story, in what he chooses to do and the way he chooses to do it. It helps remind me of the tree I'm writing about rather than getting lost in the foliage of a few thousand individual leaves.

I'm finding it much easier to throw problems and obstacles at a character when I don't (yet) need to write the scene that gets them out of it!
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