Thursday, March 24, 2022

Reverse Engineering: How to Build A Plot In Reverse

 Reverse Engineering is how I give my plots structure. If you're like me, even if you outline a bit and have a sense of where you're going, your first draft is feeling around in the dark a lot. Nothing wrong with that. But it does make for plots with lots of holes. So on my first revision I start thinking about the different plots and where they ended up. Maybe I have a mystery plot and a relationship plot and a wonder plot (which would probably link up with setting since I write mostly SFF).

What I have to do is think about how I got to my endings. I reverse engineer so that I have steps of progress throughout the manuscript. I want to make these the best I can because the quality of my plots will rely on believable important steps. That’s how I shape the story. That’s the kind of revision that can really improve a manuscript. You can’t come up with everything all at once in a first draft but you can, in revision, go back and build a plot.

Here's the funny thing. I begin with character. I think of character as being the most important of all fiction (novel in particular) skills. But you need plot, too. Good plot. Not just something for the characters to talk about or move through. Plots that contribute and really matter. Create characters that people care about working through interesting plots and you've got something.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Stay in the Flow: Do this one thing and you will write better and faster fiction

You want to get a lot of words on the page when you're working. You want those words to be good and you want them to be the right words. Move the story forward. Develop character. Move at the pace you want. Make your reader feel what you want them to feel.

You've got to stay in the flow. Do that and you will write better and faster.

This is both easier and harder than it sounds. If you are in the flow, the words are, well, flowing, and you're doing all the things you want to do. Nothing can stop you. Except an interruption. And here's the thing, often that interruption comes from us. We can talk about the psychology some other time but I know, from personal experience, that sometimes I will give into various interruptions: I must check my email, google some information, do research on my story, walk the dog, talk to the dog, play with the dog (blame the dog for wanting me to play with the dog). You name it, I've probably used it as an excuse to wander from the act of writing. Take a little break. That's a common one.

The thing is these breaks do, in fact, break the flow. They're a scourge on writers. Not just because it takes time to get back into your writing (it does, always) but because it breaks connections we were making when we were in the flow. 

It's simple. Build better habits. Be aware. Be mindful of when you take a break and why. Most of the time it will just be an excuse. And it will harm both your writing and your output. When you're writing make yourself actually write.  Don't waste the flow. I fight this all the time because I'm prone to daydreaming and distractions. But I'm much more aware of how much time this wastes now. So, may the flow be with you, writing brothers and sisters.