Distillate of Scribbling Know-How
I’ve been grinding away on the book and I want to write down a couple of technique things here in case I forget them.
First; 750words.com. This site does what you might suspect it does – you have to write 750words per day and it measures the speed, accuracy and so on of what you write and gives you a point and perhaps a little badge. I started doing this as a stick to goad myself into doing consistent work and now I find its almost custom built for me. There is a piece of advice floating around out there that runs to the lines of “you shouldn’t write the full scene in a sitting” – also phrased as “creativity is a tank that refills, as long as you don’t drain it dry”. The more logical thinking behind this is that if you’ve left a scene half done then a) you’re eager to get back to it b) you know where you’re going for the first couple of lines, shoving through ‘blank page syndrome’ immediately and c) by the time you come to the end of the scene you’ve got momentum and its easier to bounce to the next scene.
I realised that left to my own devices I’ll crank 1000-1200 words in a sitting – but those sittings won’t be terribly frequent. I’d need to have mood and inspiration with me and so on aggregate wordcount was not high. Thus, I find that something that forces me to write every day for *less* than my roughly-1000 word creativity tank limit is a pretty good fit for me.
Second thing I did was get directed to Scribophile.com. This is a writers site where you post up your work and get it critiqued by the rest of the people on the site. They do this because critiques earn you Karma and you spend Karma to get your own work critiqued. For me this worked very well by forcing me to read through a bunch of stuff with my brain fully engaged and then to say what I liked and didn’t like, what worked and what didn’t. Why did I feel this was a bad opener? Because we don’t know what the stakes are, we don’t know why we care about this character, we don’t feel the tension. So, of course, this makes me think “wheres the tension in my own work”, “why should the reader care, have I put it down on the page”, “whats the hook, have I got it up front?”
From just a technical writing aspect, this has been excellent to make me look in the mirror and think what I may need to do myself.
Third I started listening to some podcasts. I tried a few but the ones I’ve found that I like are Writing Excuses and Wordplay. I tried a few others but these are the two I’ve kept. They cover a lot of topics, needless to say quite a few of these are not really of interest but a lot of their talk about structure has been helpful – from the big picture stuff like the Hero’s Journey down to really simple tricks like Try-Fail loops with “Yes, but…/No, then…” or starting with the ending and working backwards through “… because…. because… because…”.
This last I used to plot up the latest attempt and so far its proved very handy – I was able to patch everything already done into the right places and start writing in the blank patches. Even when I came to a point that I realise the “blueprint” I’ve written is far too threadbare to be useful I was able to skip past to the next useful bit.
Happily this time I’ve written a finale, so its just* a case of working back from that.
*Just – ha bwah ha ha ha “Just”…