Today: My Writing Space, Plot-driven Versus Character-driven Stories, Manuscript Format, and Shutting Up the Internal Editor.
So, yesterday was Day One of NaNoWriMo. I didn’t make it to 2,500 words because, well, I took a nap. And 1,788 lent itself to a good stopping point.
I thought it might be fun to share what my writing space looks like. Not the interior of my house, because I write all over the place. Also my desk is a mess.
You can tell already this will be a frenzied post, can’t you?
So here’s what the space looks like:
As you can see, I cover nearly every pixel of my screen. On the upper left is my beat sheet, written in Evernote.
- Here’s Larry Brooks’ explanation of a beat sheet. Remember, this guy adheres to formulas religiously.
- Here’s John August’s explanation. And here’s a beat sheet he wrote for the first Charlie’s Angels movie.
- Evernote is a free program that syncs to all your devices. I stopped using Scrivener after I started using Evernote. I’ve got Notebooks full of character info, my research, etc. You can include images as well. I highly recommend it to writers, but I also recommend it to anyone who, like me, jots down notes anywhere and then loses them.
On the lower left is a summary I wrote for the novel. It helps me to get the broader picture of what I think will happen.
A note about planning plots
Though I do plan plot (as you can tell from my series on plot), I also make sure that what I am writing is character-driven. THESE ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. You can write character-driven stories and still have an idea of where you are going. There’s a difference between a plot-driven novel and a plot planned one.
Let’s say you are planning a road trip across country. You plan your route ahead of time, and you have a rough idea of where you are going. But your route takes you to a road with a closed bridge. If you adhered to the plan without faltering, you’d blast through the “ROAD CLOSED” barriers and traffic cones and gun it, hoping that your tiny sedan can make the jump and land on the other side. This is what happens when a story is plot driven. It might have a lot of excitement, but it usually doesn’t end well for everyone involved, and along the way, you’ll make somebody say, “What the heck just happened?” and not in a good way.
But, it you come up to that closed bridge and you take a detour, you change direction. Maybe you even change your destination, having an existential moment where the sun breaks through the clouds and you realize, It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. That’s the way a person writes something character-driven. It’s fluid and organic, not rigid and contrived.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a plan to begin with. In my opinion, you’ll have fewer projects that die by your hand if you make an effort to think towards a possible ending before you even start. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve written that didn’t work. My current novel has already been scrapped and started over a few times. Here’s to hoping I’m heading in the right direction this time, because I truly love these characters.
Related: Outlining for Pantsers
Back to my writing space
Here it is again.
In the middle is my manuscript. I really hate writing in Times New Roman, but I decided to format my novel in the standard Manuscript format from the get-go. Some people want you to use Courier, others Times New Roman. This is how you format your novel manuscript. Remember, though, to check and see if an editor or agent has specific requirements before submitting.
On the right, I have another document that is specifically for my internal editor. I don’t have success completely gagging my internal editor, whose name is Melvin and looks like George Costanza.
Some people have semi-sadist daydreams about their internal editor, and what it takes to shut him/her/it up. With an internal editor like mine, if you fill his mouth with cotton balls, he’ll just start humming “It’s a Small World, After All” until you let him go. So I’ve found it works best to throw him into a cellar and let him shout out a couple of things now and again through the air vents. That document is a collection of his nags and pointers. I’ve found it’s best to acknowledge the internal editor, but rather than make the fixes, write the problems down on a sort of “Honey-do” list I’ll address during rewrites. Then I can keep writing quickly.