You’re writing fiction: a novel. You’ve exhausted your first burst of enthusiasm. You can’t figure out where the story goes next. You’ve got 10,000 words of nothing.
Sadly, outlining doesn’t help. You’ve written an outline, and it has all the appeal of a jar of baby food. It’s bland. There’s no spark. You don’t care about your characters. You don’t even care about them enough to dislike them.
Relax. This kind of thing happens often. Look on the bright side — you’ve got 10K words, and that’s something. Here’s why you’ve lost your way: you’ve stopped feeling the emotions you’re aiming to portray. It’s easy enough to get them back.
Start by planning.
Plan and plot, to boost your enthusiasm
As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m not a great fan of outlines. I prefer organic outlining, as we discuss in our Hot Plots program. When you use ordinary outlines, you’ll try to force your characters where they don’t want to go. You’re fighting your creative self, which knows what’s best for your story.
Go back to basics.
- The setup (approximately a quarter of your novel, in which you set up your story. After you’ve set things up, you’re moving to…
- The midpoint — what it says. This is the first big turning point of your story, where everything changes. Your story goes in a new direction. Next you head for…
- Story twist number 2. Another turning point. Your main character has tried to change. It’s not working. Things look black, and you’re heading for…
- The showdown. The make or break. The big fight your character needs to win. The story winds down, with…
- The resolution. The killer’s identified in a mystery. The world’s saved in a thriller, and it’s hearts and flowers in a romance.
When you consider the above way markers for your story, you’re not writing an outline. You’re giving yourself points to hit. Over time, as you write more short stories and novels, and read them as well, you’ll recognize these way markers instinctively.
SHOW it, don’t blow it: put yourself, and your readers IN your story
Get a big sheet of paper, at least A3 size. Or grab a whiteboard. Make circles on the board. List your main characters down the side.
Fiction is about people. People who CHANGE, over the course of the story. In your first circle, write your main character’s name, and his situation and major attribute at the start of the story.
It’s your challenge to show your main character’s growth, and change, throughout the story. A “plot” means nothing if your character doesn’t change. You’ve heard of the character arc, and character development. That means change.
Let’s say that at the start of your novel, a thriller, your main character, Lola, is a trader in a bank. She loves numbers. People make her shy, so she rarely stands up to anyone. She’s divorced with a small son.
Over the course of your story, you’ve got to show Lola change. She changes into someone who stands up for herself, and what’s right. She becomes a whistleblower: she saves the financial lives of hundreds of the banks’ small investors.
Using your sheet of paper, or whiteboard, start brainstorming scenes. Lola starts out as timid and becomes a heroine. What happens to her, and what does she do, along her journey?
When you’re done, slot your scenes into the basic “plot” we discussed above.
SHOW in every scene: see it, touch it, hear it, say it…
Now start writing a scene you want to write. Any scene. There’s no reason to write your story chronologically. Write any scene you like, from Lola’s point of view (POV) and BE Lola. Be there, in the moment.
If you can do that, your readers will be there with you. They’ll feel it.
Once you’re done with the scene, choose another scene, and write that one too. Keep BEING LOLA. When you feel it, you build your enthusiasm, and the words will flow.
Have fun… 🙂
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Updated: February 19, 2018
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