This Week: When Things Go Wrong!!!
This week's cryptic topic comes from the lovely and talented Stacia Kane- "When Things Go Wrong." With such a Pandora's Box* of a subject, I decided to narrow down my focus to two of my own problem areas.
When I'm trying to write the types of stories that I do- the kind that I would like to read myself- I'm in a constant state of having things go wrong, and for some people that would be enough to stop them in their tracks. Not your Anton, though. I take a deep breath and get back to work because things going wrong is a natural and inherent part of the writing process. Frankly, it's where a lot of the best stuff I've written comes from. Here are my two.
Things That Go Wrong Number One: Some days I don't have the impetus to sit down and write. This is also a problem I hear from a lot of people who want to be writers. It can go so far as to stop them from writing altogether, but I can't do that. My first book took me three-plus years to write (for a variety of reasons), but now I have deadlines and don't have the luxury of that much time. I have to perform according to a schedule, so I do what every writer needs to do, including those of you reading this.
Let's go with a cliche here: Ain't nothing to it but to do it. Sit yer butt down and write, or at least, sit down like yer gonna write. And don't move. Maybe you'll be inspired, maybe you won't, but eventually putting the time in front of the computer trains your brain to start acting in a Pavlov-ian response. It's a commitment, but the easiest answer is that you simply need to be there. If I still find myself uninspired, there's a world of Google and Wiki research at my fingertips... or a quick game of Spider Solitaire to get my brain thinking in other directions, but no more than two or three games. You need to train your brain for the task of writing on command.
Things That Go Wrong Number Two: Another area where I personally go wrong is the dreaded outline. Here's why. If I do a detailed outline, I kill my desire to actually write the damn story. For me, outlining kills the spontaneity of what the characters will do or where they will go in the moment to moment of writing the story. My brain shuts down. It's funny like that.
So I don't really do an outline.
Still, to keep back the chaos, I need some kind of structure, right? Let me share the secret of what works for me now... for free! I give and I give...
Because I'm a geek, I use Excel to keep track of what's going on chronologically. I only use three columns as a guide. They are entitled:
Chapter Numbers (1-40, as a general starting point))
In Which... (here I spell out what the main drive of the scene will be, for example: In Which our hero attempts to drive off the zombies but finds it is hard to do with only a shrimp fork))
Notes (here I'll put any quick notes I think will be pertinent to the scene)
That's my entire outline... enough of a skeletal frame to keep me going forward, but leaving me free to write the actual chapters from moment to moment without killing the desire to write.
Again, this is just what works for me, but I hope it's something that may help some of you find a path to finishing your stories too!
*Not to be confused with Pandora's Closet, the fantasy anthology I'm in that's on sale NOW!