Introducing one of my favorite authors of all times, Allison Brennan. =) Jump in on the discussion today – Allison is giving away three books from her backlist to three randomly chosen winners. You’re not going to want to miss out on that!
Do you want to write or don’t you? If your answer is “yes, but,” then here’s a small editing tip: what you’re doing is using six letters and two words to say “no.” And that’s fine. Just don’t kid yourself as to what “yes, but” means.
— John Scalzi
No Plotters Allowed is one of my most popular workshops. I created it originally because I hated when people told me I had to write this way or that way; that I had to plot, or use the snowflake method, or create a GMC chart, or interview my hero and heroine. We all write differently, and what might work for me won’t work for you. But people who say you HAVE to write THIS WAY drive me batty. There is no one right way to create a story. There is a right way for you.
But first, you have to understand why you’re not writing.
The number one reason you are not writing is not because of writer’s block. It’s not because you plotted your book or didn’t plot your book. The number one reason you are not writing is because of fear.
You can explain it any way you want, but FEAR is the great de-motivator.
Resistance feeds on fear.
To paraphrase Steven Pressfield in his THE WAR OF ART:
Resistance is invisible, internal, insidious, impersonal. It is the enemy within. Everyone experiences resistance.
Don’t lie to yourself. Don’t make up excuses. If you want to write, write. If you don’t want to write, don’t write. Never blame anyone but yourself, because no one on this planet cares whether you are published except you.
There are a hundreds of thousands people who say they’re writing a book. Will they finish? 99% won’t. Don’t be one of the masses. And of the 1% who do finish, most won’t show it to anyone, or edit it, or do what it takes to turn a ho-hum manuscript into a sellable story.
If writing is as much a part of you as breathing, then write. If you’d rather be gardening or watching television or saving the world, by all means do it.
Do you want to write?
If the answer is “YES!” you’re in the right place. If the answer is “Yes, but…” take a deep breath, find out what’s demoralizing you, and conquer it. Or find something else to do.
“Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice. The story which results from it is apt to feel artificial and labored.”
So what is plot? Here’s one definition:
plot / plŏt / n: A small piece of ground, generally used for burying dead people, including writers.
Or try these synonyms for plot on for size:
2. To brew, hatch, frame
3. To conspire; To scheme; Secret, cunning, and often unscrupulous planning to gain one’s own ends. To plot is to contrive a secret plan of a selfish and often treasonable kind. To scheme is to plan ingeniously, subtly, and often craftily for one’s own advantage: to scheme how to gain power.
Okay, plot is a lot of different things. But here’s the truth about plot when it comes to writing:
It’s what you end up with after you’ve typed THE END.
You can spend days, weeks or even months planning your story. Putting ideas down on three by five cards, rearranging them, rearranging them again… and again… and again, until you feel you have it right, and then you sit down and write. And maybe have to rearrange and rearrange and rearrange again.
You can be an organic writer and just leap into your story with both feet, with no definite plan of action other than to take a grain of an idea and expand on it as you write your story, anxious to see where your wild mind–or your characters!–takes you.
Or you can be a “Tweener.” You like a little planning; a little spontaneity.
No matter how you do it, in the end . . . you have a plot. It could be a lousy plot, a mess, disjointed, or . . . a masterpiece.
Naturally what we all want is to end up with a masterpiece, or at the very least, a story that works, a piece of fiction that will grab the reader’s attention. It doesn’t matter how you write your story. What matters is that you write.
It is good to have an end to journey toward;
but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
–Ursula K. Leguin
PLOT… WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? CHARACTER!
“Plot grows out of character. If you focus on who the people in your story are, if you sit and write about two people you know and are getting to know better day by day, something is bound to happen.”
— Anne Lamott
Simply put, the plot is what happens to the characters–they are what the book is about.
You can spend endless hours, days, weeks or even months crafting the most intricate plot, but if you populate that plot with characters who are colorless—lifeless–no one will care. You won’t care, either. What fun is it to write a story if you don’t have immense passion for your characters, and if your characters don’t have immense passion in return.
In some genres–fantasy, for instance–the world you create becomes a character, too. But that world won’t be complete if you don’t populate it with people. They’re part and parcel of the world you create.
Naturally, something has to happen to your characters to make a story. Plot “happens” by the very fact that your characters do something, and preferably doing something problematic.
Character is conflict. That is probably said in every writing classroom in the world. Your protagonist is defined by how he faces and overcomes the conflicts in the path ahead.
— Michael Connelly
Maybe you can put some spark in your story simply by spiffing up your characters.
“I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way. In some instances, the outcome is what I visualized. In most, however, it’s something I never expected… I am, after all, not just the novel’s creator but its first reader. And if I’m not able to guess with any accuracy how the damned thing is going to turn out, even with my inside knowledge of coming events, I can be pretty sure of keeping the reader in a state of page-turning anxiety. Why be such a control freak? Sooner or later every story comes out somewhere.” – Stephen King
But what do you do when you get STUCK on the way to somewhere?
You could listen to your critics who say, “You wouldn’t get stuck if you plotted in advance.”
Everyone gets stuck, plotters and non-plotters alike. But there are many practical solutions to writer’s block that don’t involve detailed plotting.
Okay, we now know what “plot” is. Plot HAPPENS as you write your book, whether you work at it or not.
But what do you do if you get the dreaded WRITER’S BLOCK?
Well . . . you have to figure out why you’re stuck!
There are endless reasons why someone stares at the screen or piece of paper with a sick feeling in the pit of their stomach because they have absolutely no idea where to go next.
What are some of those reasons?
• Wrote yourself into a corner
• No idea what should come next
• Worry that you’ll do something wrong
• Worry that you’re writing garbage
• Fear of criticism
• Fear of success
• Hate your hero
• Hate your heroine
• Love your villain
• Worried that you’re a hack
• Worried that you have no talent
There are endless reasons for writer’s block. Figuring out your reason or reasons is the first step to solving your problem(s).
I’ll be popping in and out all day to answer questions about writing, character, plot, and your excuses. I look forward to chatting!
RU Writers – have you ever had writer’s block? What’s your favorite excuse for not writing?
Join us tomorrow for Laura Griffin with The Devil is in the Details
Bio: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Allison Brennan is the
author of seventeen romantic thrillers and multiple short stories. IF I
SHOULD DIE, the third book in the Lucy Kincaid series, will be available
on November 22, 2011, followed by SILENCED on June 5, 2012. Allison was
thrilled to contribute an all-new Seven Deadly Sins novella, “Ghostly
Justice,” for a digital-released charity anthology, ENTANGLED, where all
the proceeds will be donated to breast cancer research. A former
consultant with the California State Legislature, she currently lives in
Northern California with her husband and five kids. For more information
please visit her website at allisonbrennan.com, or check out the Seven
Deadly Sins supernatural thriller series at sevendeadlysinsbooks.com.
- 7 Ways to Create Conflict in Your Novel by Janice Hardy
- Plotting: The Flow of Your Story by Houston Havens
- Get Physical with your Work in Progress (and Not Mental) by Summerita Rhayne
- Five Ways Point of View Can Make You a Better Writer by Janice Hardy
- How to Save Your Story from Slumping in the Middle by the Writer’s Relief Staff