Now, all these seemingly pointless tasks are going to start coming into focus. Unlike the other parts of the process, which take little time, developing plot points will take effort and more concentration.
Everyone plots differently. I like to use index cards. They’re cheap (.47 cents at Target) and portable. Other methods include Scrivener, Post-its, outlines, keeping it all in your head. I strongly suggest not relying on the sheer power of your mind. For one thing, it’s easy to forget what you were intending to do. Free up the noggin and save your energy for the actual writing process.
If you’ve been wondering or chomping at the bit to start creating, here is the big moment. Brainstorming.
No holds barred. Whatever you want. No Doubt Monster allowed.
Tell the internal critic, editor, and English teacher to shut up.
In this step I jot down ONE (and I mean it!) plot point per card. If I have a scene to go
with it, I flip the card over and make a note so I don’t forget later. Keep doing this until you have all the cards filled (at least 25 – 30).
One caution – keep in mind these plot points are all on trial. Right now, they are auditioning for a part in your story. If they don’t fit, be prepared to ruthlessly discard them.
But not yet. For the moment, keep imagining and keep writing those ideas down. Next week, I’ll share how I wrangle them into a manageable plot line.
Where do you go to find your happy place? And what tools do you use for brainstorming?
Let’s be honest – who here has ever suffered from stagnant brain syndrome? You know, that dull, woolen headed feeling that cobwebs are stuffing your brain. Nothing comes out right. Perhaps, you wonder if you have lost your mind because you suddenly seem incapable of putting two coherent words together.
Here is a definition, courtesy of Google.
stag·nant/ˈstagnənt/ – adjective
(of a body of water or the atmosphere of a confined space) Having no current or flow and often having an unpleasant smell as a consequence. (Umm – eww. Forget this. I’m not talking about brackish water today)
Showing no activity; dull and sluggish: “a stagnant economybrain“. This more like it!
Now it would be totally unfair to blame (or give any credit) to The Doubt Monster. What I’m talking about is a cousin to “burnout”. I’m also not talking about Writer Avoidance Behavior. This is when you are honestly trying to write and you just can’t focus.
Stagnant Brain Syndrome is when you let yourself get in a creative rut. You fall into a pattern. Using the same go-to plot devices or situations because they are familiar or easy. Suddenly, you realize that what you’re writing is not that engaging and your readers will know it too.
You stop writing. Blame ensues (Doubty gets in trouble). Or you decide that you have writer’s block because you struggle to put words on the page.
How do I know this? Because I’ve been there, dear readers.
But there is hope. You can overcome Stagnant Brain Syndrome:
1. Leave your house. But not to go run errands or the usual mundane chores. Take a walk. Clear your mind.
2. Or – go to the movie theater (I know it’s expensive. If your local movieplex has bargain night, go then). Again, leave your house and go somewhere without internet access or other distractions. Why the movies? Because a film is a few hours of diversion. This way you don’t end up watching a Downton Abbey marathon for two days. Not that I’ve done that….
3. Take a day trip (one of my favorites). I’m doing this today. So you won’t see any comments from me until later.
4. Clean out your closet. Yes, I mean the one you put your clothes in. Or tackle a chore you’ve been putting off.
5. Take a look in the mirror and clear out the mental baggage. Is something bothering you? Are there stressors in your life pulling you down? If so, can you tackle one or develop a plan to make it better?
6. Have you gone for a physical lately? Rule out physical concerns. And not to state the obvious but – get a good night’s sleep!
7. Play opposite day – tell yourself you’re not allowed to write today. Like when you want to eat that last cupcake or piece of chocolate. Pretty soon, you’ll be itching to write because it’s forbidden!
You may have noticed several of my suggestions involve leaving the house. Our brains need stimulation. We need to build life experiences and interact with the world around us. Otherwise, we could end up like that guy in The Shining, wielding an axe, shouting, “Here’s Johnny!”
Don’t let that happen to you!
Anyone else have this happen? And how did you overcome it?
Happy Friday everyone! Casey Wyatthere with one of my favorite paranormal romance authors – Lisa Kessler aka Lady Disney.
Lisa, I’m thrilled to have you as my guest today. Let’s start off with the Scribes’ favorite question!
How do you battle the doubt monster?
This is a great question because I have not yet mastered the Doubt Monster! LOL Maybe we never really do? Some days the words flow and I know in my heart the story is cooking! I love the characters and the pacing is super. Then other days I stare at my story and have this nasty whisper in my head that says “This is boring.”
So I wish I had a magic cure! I’ve been lucky that on my lowest days, somehow a reader out there must sense it because out of the blue I’ll get an email or a facebook note from someone who read something of mine and wanted to let me know they enjoyed it. That can make a WORLD of difference!
Otherwise I’m forced to gag the monster and keep typing! LOL
What story haven’t you told yet that you want to tell? What is holding you back?
I started a third book in my werewolf series called, Blood Moon, and just after I started working on it, my Night Series sold to Entangled Publishing, so I had to set that book aside to work on the Night books.
But that werewolf hero, Gareth, just keeps growling in my ear sometimes and I’m itching to go finish that novel… Someday soon!
They say that every author has a partially completed, quite-possibly-terrible half a story shoved in a drawer somewhere. What is yours? What is it about? What makes it terrible? Would you ever consider picking it up and finishing it?
I have a novel that I started years ago before there was a YA section in the bookstores called, Perfect. I started it as a horror novel about cloning and experimental drugs, but now that there is an entire genre of YA, I think if I toned it down just a hair, it might work for that.
It’s my grown daughter’s favorite story I’ve written, so I’ve promised to finish he book someday. It’s about a teen girl who finds out that she is really an experiment for a drug that makes “Perfect” children. She’s never been sick, or injured or outside of her house. Ever.
But she’s about to turn 18 and the experiment will be finished. And she will be too.
Author Jane Haddam says that anyone who seriously annoys her gets bumped off in her next book. How do you incorporate your real-life experiences into your stories?
In my novel, Night Walker, my heroine, Kate, has an ancient VW bug convertible that is held together with vice grips, bungee cords, and duct tape. I based her car off of two cars I grew up with as a kid. J
Let’s talk about Lady Disney? Who is she and how did she come about? And what is behind the fabulous Cruella costume?
I wish it was a cooler story! LOL When I started writing most of the sites, like facebook, twitter and even just a website of my name were already taken. Lisa Kessler is also a fabulous professional photographer in New York!
The email address that I’ve had forever is LdyDisney (and I’m a crazy Disney fanatic) so I used that handle for twitter and facebook.
My “power suit” (Cruella) is a holdover from MySpace. When I started writing horror short stories, I used my “power suit” for fun, but every time I changed my pic back to my street clothes, I’d get a bunch of notes that they couldn’t find me and where was Cruella! LOL
So apparently I had accidentally branded myself! J It turned out that people remembered my Cruella power suit and could find me because of it. Who knew?
I’ve been gradually switching over to my headshot, but I’ll probably always wear my power suit on Twitter…
Please tell us about your latest book. The cover for Night Walker is <fans face> so hot! What’s next in the Night series?
I just got the big news that Night Walker has been picked up for national mass-market release! So in May Night Walker will be in bookstores across the country in a mass-market size paperback! I’m so excited that Calisto will be able to find more readers… Woot!
The big re-release also shook up my future release schedule a little, so the next release will be Night Thief which is a prequel novella to Night Walker. It should be available in September. I can’t wait to share Kane with all of you! *swoon* I should have a cover for it soon…
What’s the most dangerous or risky thing that you’ve done?
While researching for Night Demon (Book #2 in the Night Series) I went to Cancun to tour all the Mayan ruins. My kids were smaller then and we visited Chichen Itza. They talked me into hiking the big pyramid. The steps were so steep we had to monkey crawl up.
Have I mentioned I’m terrified of heights?
So anyway, I got up there and realized how high up we were and how steep the stairs were, and of course there wasn’t a handrail, so… I started to panic! I may have evencried. Anyway, my sweet son sat on his butt and told me we could scoot down. Those stairs were much cleaner thanks to me wiping them down with my backside… Hundreds of them! LOL
We lived, and I kissed the ground when we finally made it down! Yikes!!! LOL
I’ve been dreaming up stories since I was in elementary school. My first book was titled “The Wonders of Unicorn Creek” and my publisher was Dehesa elementary school.
Since then, I’ve published numerous short stories in anthologies and magazines. My story, “Immortal Beloved” was a finalist for a Bram Stoker award and was recently re-released in the “Dead Souls” anthology, along with a follow-up never-before-published story, “Subito Piano”.
I’ve completed 4 novels so far, and just received a contract from Entangled Publishing to publish my Night Walker series!!!
NYTimes Bestselling Novelist & 2x RITA Award Winning Author Kristan Higgins has generously agreed to answer a few questions for us. Kristan, thank you so much for taking the time! Let’s just jump right into things.
How do you battle the doubt monster? The Doubt Monster is the nagging feeling while writing that your prose is terrible, you plot is silly, your characters are insipid and no-one in their right mind would read this drivel, let alone buy it.
I love and embrace the Doubt Monster. It took us a while to fall for each other, but because I am old and wise now, I’ve come to learn that the DM and I are actually meant to be together. He lets me know when I need to rethink a plot point or adjust a character, back off or tone down or beef up. That being said, I try to ignore the DM during the first draft. Experience has shown that while first draft may indeed suck, it doesn’t mean the final product will. So I try to barrel through that part of writing, then fling open the doors and let the Doubt Monster have at it.
What story haven’t you told yet that you want to tell?What is holding you back?
I have an idea for a murder mystery based on a love triange I watched unfold. It would be very dark – the main character wouldn’t be a likable person. I think the lack of an 8th day in the week is holding me back…I’m under contract for the next three years, so until I have a little more time, that project will stay in the old noggin (where it may well be forgotten).
What is the most surprising thing that has happened in your writing career?
Winning the RITA Award twice. That was just stunning. Truly stunning.
What would you do if you couldn’t be a writer any longer?
I’d be a pastry chef. Or the taster for a pastry chef.
They say that every author has a partially completed, quite-possibly-terrible half a story shoved in a drawer somewhere.What is yours? What is it about? What makes it terrible? Would you ever consider picking it up and finishing it?
Oh, yes, I do. My now-infamous 93-page outline of a historical romance set during the Potato Famine in Ireland.Po-Fam romance, I think they call it. Oh, lordy, it was so bad! The hero loves—truly loves—the heroine because she’s Terribly Beautiful, and though she hates him with every fiber of her being, she nonetheless falls for his Irresistible Charms. Stop laughing. It had its moments. Not very many of them, but one or two. Your question about would I ever finish it up made me laugh so hard I choked on my coffee.
How do you come up with your shtick?For instance, a lot of your books take place in New England, so they have a distinctive flavor (like Red Sox/Yankees rivalry)
Do I have a shtick? I never really thought about it…that stuff is pretty innate to who I am. You really are a product of where you’re from and who your people are, I think. I do love baseball and welcome any chance to type the words “Derek Jeter.” I pride myself on my bad date scenes and sometimes call upon boyfriends or not-boyfriends of old for my material. But the shtick part…I think that’s organic. Every writer has their own truth. That sounds terribly profound, doesn’t it? Somebody, write that down! I must remember it!
Please tell us about your upcoming release. I hear there is a biker dude named Liam. Did you spend a lot of time hanging around biker bars for research?
The bad boy of Bellsford High returns to New Hampshire after eighteen years. Now a widower with a teenage daughter, Liam is somewhat surprised to find what a long memory the town seems to have. Posey Osterhagen, once a classic teenage misfit, worshipped Liam Murphy from afar, but even from that distance, she managed to have her heart squished to a pulp by his careless ways. Now he’s back, as irritatingly attractive as ever, and while Posey wants to stay well away from him, she can’t help wondering if fatherhood has changed him, or if he’s the same arrogant guy he was back then. How’s that sound?
As for hanging around biker bars, yes, I did. A certain guy named Scar gave me invaluable input on super-hot men, and we toured the country on his custom—oh, hang on, that was just a dream I had. No, unfortunately, most of my research came from one very happy ride on the back of a Harley, two episodes of American Chopper, and a lot of time on the Internet.
What was your biggest misstep in your writing career so far?
Oh, gosh. Maybe it was the time when the head of HQN Books called me to say congratulations on hitting the New York Times bestseller list, and I hung up on her because I thought she was a telemarketer. (True story.)
Do you have a word related pet peeve?
Yes! Yes I do! I have hundreds, probably thousands. The misuse of the word “would” is one. If I would’ve known Scar was single, I would’ve given him my number. Makes me cringe. Also, when people use “I” instead of “me.” And “whom” instead of “who.” Also…oh, wait a sec, I’m being told that’s enough. Sorry. My mother’s an editor. I have issues.
What is your junk food of choice?
Anything bright orange—Twinkies, Cheetos, Cheezits, those strange little cornucopia things you could put on your fingers…
What’s the most dangerous or risky thing that you’ve done?
Said ‘yes’ to my boyfriend of six weeks. Worked out okay, though…we’ve been married for 20 years now.
What is your guilty pleasure? Remember: this is a ‘G’ rated blog! 🙂
America’s Next Top Model. That show is like crystal meth for me. So stupid. So shallow. Miss J? What the heck, right? And how could anyone use the word ‘smeyes’ and still have a job? But I love it. Heaven help me, I love it.
Happy Friday! Casey here.Back in January 2010, high from the successful completion of Ascension, I penned the next book in the series. It’s tentatively titled, Aethera Lost.
And that is exactly what the book is: lost. I wrote up to the final chapters then stopped, cold turkey. The Doubt Monster savaged the plot. I second guessed every idea, every plot twist – everything.
I slashed. I re-wrote. I re-plotted. Then it dawned on me – I needed to stop. So I put the story away. Later, as I grew more business savvy, I heard the conventional wisdom – “no sequels, unless you have a book contract in hand.”
That’s all I needed to hear. I continued to ignore the book. But like Hamlet, guilt ate away at me. Even worse, the main character – Galen Archer – refused to leave me alone. He was angry that I’d moved on to another story. How dare I?
I have made a few attempts to move the story back on track. I created a synopsis, wrote several new beginnings, and tried to make up my mind!!
Sad to say, the story is still in limbo land. Maybe I’m not ready to tell this tale yet. Or maybe I should just finish it and deal. We’ll see. Because I hate having unfinished business and one way or another Galen’s story will be completed.
Take that Doubt Monster!
Let’s hear from you? What have you left unfinished? And what are your plans to resolve the situation?