Stick a Fork in it and Call it Done!

Welcome Friday! Casey here.

I’ve been deep in the writer’s cave plotting my next two books. Doing the usual things.Thinking about my new characters. Asking the burning questions like: What do they want? What is holding them back?

Steampunk OwlNot all that different from nagging talking to my sons – What do you want to do with your life? Do you plan on living in my house forever?

I’ve also been asking – what happens next? What can I do to make their journey as difficult as possible? Not so much “how” will those things happen. I save that part for when I do the actual writing. Then the characters become real and their actions are driven by the barriers I toss in their paths.

Just thinking about the word “plotting” brings to mind a different word – scheming. Muwhahaha! Like a hand-wringing, moustache-twirling villain. Okay, minus the moustache. But I think you get my point.

As a writer, you really are contriving an entire story out of thin air – creating a whole new world that didn’t previously exist. Totally cool and frightening at the same time. And once the story is published, then that world is shared with your readers. They bring their own expectations and realities. Your world isn’t only in your head anymore.

It’s a big responsibility, which is why I spend more time on plotting, character creation, etc. than I do writing. I’ve learned the hard way that planning ahead works best for me.

But with planning comes the ability to know when to stop, put a stake in the ground and

Isn't she pretty?
Isn’t she pretty?

say, “this is what the story will be.”

Again, also a scary step. That means committment to the ideas you’ve set forth and implementing them.

Yes, it means that you need to let go of all the “what ifs” and move ahead with the story you’ve concocted in your head. To not become distracted (or perhaps, seduced) by those nagging plot bunnies.

Have no fear! I know I am not the only Scribe who has started a book (or even written the whole thing) and scrapped it later. That is not a bad thing. It can make you a stronger writer and the book better (as long as you know when to let it go – but that is a different blog post).

But, in order to get there, you have to start writing and finish that first draft. You just do. Not to go all “Mom”, but if you want to be a published author, you have to know when to let go of the idea phase and move to the writing phase.

What has your experience been? How do you know when to start writing? Have you ever started too soon and ended up in a corner later? How did you get out?

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17 thoughts on “Stick a Fork in it and Call it Done!”

  1. What happens when your characters take you in another direction while you are in the writing process? Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men. Guess I just have to learn to stand firm with my characters.

  2. Hey Casey!
    By my very nature, I’m a pantser, so naturally I’ve started stories that I have yet to finish. Yet what I’ve discovered works best for me is when I write the final scenes first, before I’ve written a single line of the opening chapter.

    As for your other question about having written myself in a corner? Heh. I did that yesterday. Conveniently, that’s what “delete” is for!

    Great post!

  3. Well, since my publisher requires I write on proposal now, I can no longer be a pantser. My whole story needs to be in the synopsis. (which can end up being pretty long) Every twist and turn needs to be shown. The conflict and how it is resolved has to be in there. That can take me a good month to write before I ever start with page one. And there’s a chance my editor will send it back with revisions or even a “no.”

  4. I got started on a dialogue in my story and it is so interesting that I don’t know where to stop. Too much dialogue is as bad as too much narrative. I guess that delete button is handy. When I’m ready, I’ll cut and put it into my “stuff” file. Good post Casey.

  5. Thankfully I haven’t had to write a proposal or a synopsis yet for my publisher, but I’m half plotter half panster. I always know where I want my story to end up and the major events.So I just write when I have an idea.

  6. Totally get this, Casey! I “pantsed” my way through four novels before I learned about timelines and story structure, character grids, and story boarding. It was a great learning experience, but frustrating at the same time. Way too many detours and not enough focus makes those manuscripts a “hot mess” as you said. These days, I actually enjoy the planning process because it gives me a clear focus about what my story is about and lets me get to know my characters enough to do justice to their story. It all helps cut WAY down on the revision phase of the book which is essential whn deadlines are looming. I’ll be starting the planning process again very soon with book three in the dystopian trilogy I’m working on…I see a Scribes brain storming session coming!

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