The Writing Year: Learning to Structure

I have always had a problem with structuring a story.

I consider myself to be a pantser on most days, someone who has the mere hint of a story hiding in their brain, and when I sit down to start writing I just go at it. I have the idea of characters, of who they are and what they look like, of where they live and what they’re doing on their daily routine to lead them to the point in their timeline where we meet up with them, but after that I just let the character dictate where the story is going.

This, I’ve come to gather, is the reason why I haven’t really finished anything in my lifetime. I have no idea how any story is supposed to end.

During this year’s NaNoWriMo I won a number of books during the NaNoWriMotown’s Midway Madness raffle, including one on plot and structure. Two words that, until recently, have never really been involved in my storytelling. I’ve just been one to sit at the keys or with a pad and pencil/pen in front of me and just write. And, most of the time, I’ve had a lot of fun with what I’ve written… but I’ve never been able to fully finish a story, to fully complete the arc and make it, well, a complete story.

So I’ve been reading through the book on plot and structure. So far I’ve learned a few things about structure, a few things that I’ve been leaving out and therefore have felt as though my stories have been lacking. So, on this next journey into fiction, I am going to give it my all and attempt to structure the story properly. I’m really just hoping that this turns into something fun and useful and not another profile in failure. I’m getting to the point where my profiles in failure are no longer fun, but rather disappointing and just plain ol’ sad.

The Writing Year: Day 72

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-11-42-46-pmThis was tweeted by yours truly nearly six months ago. This was at a point where I’d been working 20+ hours a week, taking 18 credits, and spending 10 hours at an internship which I loved more than life itself. This was a time in my life where busy wasn’t a strong enough word. I wasn’t busy, I was swamped. The moments I wasn’t doing homework, or working, or trying to sleep, were spent either writing or “playing” with Koala.

I have since graduated, and the internship is long over. And while I have gotten a few extra hours at work, my time has been considerably freer than it had been six months ago. So… why have I not focused on my writing? Well, I suppose it could be a number of things that have me not writing as much as I would like. I mean, I can think of a few reasons why I haven’t gotten it together, haven’t gotten the ball rolling at the speed which I think it should be rolling, but none of them are related to the writing itself.

What I really need to do is just… sit somewhere, not thinking about the world for a while, and just write. Forget the computer (or at the very least turn off the wireless), and just sit there with my notebook and pen and what have you.

The only problem with this is that I enjoy doing research as I go along. If I have an idea for a setting, I like to find the perfect setting and then describe it using what I’ve already seen. So, I would need some kind of Internet connection for this. But the truth of the matter is, if I went to a public library I could always take notes and then use one of their computers to conduct said research. Remember when libraries used to have books that you could use for shit like this? Well, some of them still do, but they’re few and far between.

Oooo. You know, come to think of it, I may plan a little excursion to the dirty* side of town. I really like that space, and who knows. Maybe it’ll be conducive to the process once again. Plus, Somerset has some really nice stores, and I haven’t been to any mall in a minute. Hmm. Perhaps I have an agenda for tomorrow after all!

*I say dirty, but really it’s the part of town where my former roommate lives and works, and frankly I don’t really want to risk running into her again, ever.

The Writing Year: Day 67

Ahoy ahoy!

I wrote something like 1,063 words today, and you know what? THEY WERE ALL ROLE-PLAYING WORDS.

Now, I think I know what you’re thinking. Those don’t count. Those shouldn’t count. Assuming another identity and pretending to play through a scene as that identity? Preposterous.

What the fuck do you think fiction is?

The Writing Year: Day 61

Urban Dictionary defines writer’s block as “a usually temporary psychological inability to begin or continue work on a piece of writing“. When I saw this I thought it was… entirely too grown up to be from Urban Dictionary, but accepted it because, well, I’m knee-deep in a pretty severe block right now myself. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been making valiant attempts at writing something, yet it seems like everything I write is genuinely terrible.

I don’t scrap what I think is terrible. Well, okay no. No that’s not accurate. I wish that was accurate, I wish that I didn’t have a pile of papers sitting on my desk right now that was nothing more than pages ripped out of a notebook, with the frayed edges of the college ruled pages falling off and becoming all but impossible to clean up.

This is the problem with my writing most of the time. I have amazing ideas, ideas which I love and love executing if only for my own benefit. But when the idea doesn’t come to fruition the way I hoped, I rip it out of the notebook and debate using the pages as kindling in the fire pit in the backyard.

Yet here it is. September 30th, one day before the first of October, the month of preparation before NaNoWriMo. And this one is weird for me because, well, I don’t really need any preparation. I’ve been preparing for this for several months already. I’ve been putting notes into the Scrivener document for months.

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-4-32-31-pm

See? It’s all written down, ready to go. At least the first dozen or so chapters, anyway. So this October, I’m not going to be doing much in the way of plotting, or pretending to plot. I’ve got most of it already done. So… what am I going to do this October? The month is usually spent doing all of this plotting nonsense, and now? *SCOFF* Now I’m already ready to go.

Well, except for the fact that I’m knee-deep in some kind of writer’s block.

I’ve been listening to audiobooks while at the gym — just finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, now onto Armada, also by Ernest Cline, both read by Wil Wheaton — and have been reading every chance I get. I’ve been told that reading is what helps your writing, so this is what I’ve been doing. I’ve been listening to and reading whatever I can get my hands on grabs my attention. The Ernest Cline novels grabbed my attention long before a good friend told me they were worth my time, and so far they are both proving to be worth my time. Especially Ready Player One.

I should be writing instead of blogging.

The Writing Year: Day 47


46104 / 365000


Okay, but this isn’t really as crazy as it sounds. Yes, it’s the perfect argument for cloud storage, but at the same time… what if you have no access to the Internet wherever it is that you’re writing, hmm? What if you can’t access your writing every minute of every day? I know that I’d go a little crazy if this were the case, which is why I keep 95% of my writing on good ol’ Faye1. I always need to be where my writing is, and I don’t always have access to the Cloud™.

I’ve got myself a new project (well not a new project, but a rebooted old project), and it’s been going well, but I’ve been trying to teach myself how to outline in Scrivener and, it’s a relatively easy process, but then I get hung up on what the thing is going to look like after I’m finished and I’m ready to export it from Scrivener to a PDF. For some reason I get hung up on that a lot. So, I’m here staring at Scrivener thinking, “do I really need to be plotting this out?” a question whose answer is not always yes. But for this particular project I think it’s going to have to be a yes, I think I need to scribble down some notes and what happens when and with whom.

Ah. Once more into the breach.

1 – Faye is the name of my mid-2012 MacBook Pro; if you ask me where I got the name I can’t tell you. But Koala knows ♥

The Writing Year: Day 42


41043 / 365000


I’m going to borrow the talking points for this entry from this article by Nicole L’autore.

How can writing fan fiction improve your writing?

1. Flex your muscles stress-free.
When writing a fan fiction, there really are no constraints. Really. Have you read any? Half of it is really, really, insanely, Pulitzer Prize-winning good. And some of it is complete and total horseshit. But the point is, no matter where the story you’ve written stands in this spectrum, you’ve written it. You’ve put a lot of thought into the characters, the plot, and everything else you would do for a “regular” story that you would write. Only this time, you haven’t really devoted energy to something you plan on publishing. It’s stress-free writing, simply because this is more often than not — unless you have a Koala on your own — writing for yourself.

2. Get comfortable with your own personal style and genre.
The best part about writing fan fiction is that the characters are, more or less, developed for you. Yes, there are nuances to every character in every story and yes, more often than not those who write fan fiction tend to put the already created characters into situations that they have never been in, nor will they ever face. This is where you can carefully hone your own style, the flow to your writing that is uniquely yours. This is how I’ve been able to craft my own voice, and apply it to the stories “that count”.

3. Memorize the equation.
This is the one that I don’t fully comprehend. Memorize the equation. What equation? You mean the nifty if not mental math that most authors have going on in order to get their story from point A to point B? I feel like this is only valid if you write fan fiction that takes place inside a novel or a TV show/movie’s universe. If you write RPF (real people fiction), it’s a little more difficult because their life could be anything.

4. Dodge writer’s block.
This is HUGE, okay? Like, legit huge. This is how I break out of writer’s block. I’ve always been told that, so long as you’re writing you’re a writer. So, when I lose momentum in one of my “real” stories, I find myself jumping to an idea I’ve had about characters in one of my roleplaying threads, of something that Koala has bounced off of me days/weeks/months before. I find myself cogitating on it and finally writing up a paragraph or two. Usually this turns into something more epic, but it always results in me returning to the “real” story.

5. Bring the fun back to writing.
This goes back to the first point made. There are no stressors in writing a fan fiction. You’re writing for yourself, and if your circle of friends are really nice to you they’ll be lucky enough to read it. Perhaps. Maybe. This is where you’re allowed to flex your muscles and no one is going to judge you. In fact, nine times out of ten this particular writing community is going to encourage you no matter what. So you write. You write and a few weeks later you read it over and you write some more, and a few weeks later you write again and you continue to write and continue to read and it puts your mind and your writing at ease. It makes all the sense in the world to me, really.

The Writing Year: Day 26


23335 / 365000


Ugh.

It’s not that I’ve lost my will to write. Far from it, actually. There are so many different ideas floating around in my mind right now, so many ideas that want to come out on paper in so many different ways that, well, I sort of lose the will to write.

I got it back. For a fleeting moment today I got it back and didn’t let anything distract me while it was there.