Writing Your Novel: How to See in the Dark

Fiction Frenzy

I’ve had questions from several writers who are working with Fiction Frenzy as they make their daily word count goals for NaNoWriMo. The questions vary, but each and every one can be answered with one word: “outline”.

In Fiction Frenzy, I told you about Listing, which is another way of outlining. I prefer the term “Listing” because my brain tends to fry when I think about an outline. Thinking out outlines paralyzes many writers. Doubtless we were damaged way back in our school days. :-)

Listing has many uses, beyond the standard uses for an outline.

For example, here’s what I said in Fiction Frenzy:

Generating Text (and Arousing Emotion) Using Lists

I start each writing session creating lists.

Today, I’m working on a scene in which my lead character first meets the antagonist in the novel I’m working with in our 30 days. So, I create a list: sunshine, clink of harness, creak of saddle leather, tired, sunburn, sound, fear, spooking horse…

Your lists help you to be in the novel, to hear the sounds, feel the emotions, see the sights. If you’re there, right in the action (we’ll talk about ACTION tomorrow), your reader will be there too. Your reader will feel what the characters are feeling.

Whenever I get stuck in a book, I make a list. I don’t think about it at all, I just start listing. Novelists tend to be either pantsers (“into the mist” writers, who just start writing) and diligent outliners, who need to know a lot about their characters and plot before their start writing.

I’m much like Keith Cronin, Writer Unboxed » The Big O, who says:

“I’m sort of a hybrid between a plotter and a pantser. I usually start a book with a clear idea of my main characters and the climactic conflict they will ultimately face, but I don’t go so far as to figure out HOW they’re going to face that conflict. I figure that by the time I get there, I’ll know my characters well enough to know what they would do. Sounds great in theory, but I’ve found it has twice led me to the dreaded 30K Speedbump.”

I’ve started books with just a situation, and even with just an image. I’m currently rewriting a novel that I started with a scene in which a woman makes a provocative statement. I loved the scene, but I’ve junked it in the rewrite. However, that scene did get me several characters, the the start of a plot.

A list helps you to see in the dark

Listing gets you started on your novel, and on each day’s writing sessions. Listing helps you to see in the dark.

This is because listing helps you to activate your right brain, especially if you use concrete items in your list.

Allow yourself to relax, as you list. Wait for images to arise in your imagination, and then write down what you see. If you use this technique, not only will you find writing painless, but you’ll look forward to your writing sessions every day.

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Angela Booth is a top copywriter, multi-published author, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills on her Writing Genii website. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her business books have been widely published.

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