I haven’t been able to do much hard-core writing lately, and wondered why I was having so much trouble getting started on my newest project. Am I too distracted with book promotion? Life? Fear of the unknown? Probably all of the above.
Or is it the dreaded writer’s block?
I’ve got a great cast of characters and a workable plot I started last year during NaNoWriMo. But who wants a ’workable’ story? I certainly don’t want to spend the next year or two on a book unless it’s one I’m so excited about I can’t wait to get up in the morning for. Right now though, the story has too many missing elements.
So I’m allowing myself to Play, letting my right brain have a field day with possibilities. It’s the R&D phase which means I get to do a lot of brainstorming and researching and call it ‘work’.
I’ve also started reading Nail Your Novel, by Roz Morris which is the perfect book for me at this moment in time. Her writing process blends structure and creativity. Right brain, left brain working in harmony. Right up my alley.
Subtitled “Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence’, her method emphasizes Focused Research right up front. After, of course, coming up with a brilliant plot and character idea.
Before settling in to write, she suggests doing a lot of research.
“This is an important part of the work. Take the time you need. Don’t feel you have to get it out of the way in favour of getting on with the ‘proper’ business of writing,” she says.
I’m already breathing easier. I’m not ready to write because I don’t know enough about my character and plot. I need to dig deeply into my character’s life and personality, see what makes him tick. I need to become intimately familiar with his world and why his story needs to be told.
So, no more worrying about writer’s block. Here’s some fun ways I like to research that help me get the sparks flying.
1. Research and find books that help develop certain aspects of the story. My next book includes hidden treasure from WWII. I found the perfect accompaniment in a fascinating account of the Nazi stolen art called Hitler’s Holy Relics: A True Story of Nazi Plunder and the Race to Recover the Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire.
2. Research abilities your hero has but you know little about. How in the world am I going to learn how to handle small boats in rough seas and explore underground caverns? Until I can find real people to talk to, I plan to use the full power of Amazon and Google, incorporating Google Books and Blogs, and finding first hand personal accounts.
3. World building including drawing physical maps of your setting. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not an artist. Maps help with the lay of the land and this is an area I want to develop. Some writers, like Holly Lisle, actually start their books by drawing maps and world building. Here’s A Creative Approach to World Building from Fiction Factor that might help you get started.
4. Draw a character map. No artistic skills required for this one and a great visual aid. Put your Protagonist at the top and the Antagonist at the bottom, the essential characters of every story.
Then on one side list all your main characters friends and allies, including the dog. On the other side, list all of their troublesome characters. They’re the ones who create stumbling blocks, causing your MC to develop and grow.
It’s a real bonus, being able to see all the characters at a glance like this. If they’re all stuck in a computer file or inside a notebook, you might forget about them. But they could be the perfect character at the moment when you’re stuck for a way to complicate your hero’s life.
5. Interview your characters. This is always a revealing process. For sure, do this with your main character and his adversary, but it helps round out even minor characters too. You may never use this material directly, and most of the writing may end up on the cutting room floor, but there’s nothing like an interview for a window deeo into your character’s soul.
What do you think? What favorite techniques do you use in developing your story?
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