Dial It Back, Yah Lunatic

I’m having a rough time drafting. It’s not that I’ve hit a wall, it’s that I don’t know what I am writing towards. When my WIP was only 50,000 words, not knowing where the story would end didn’t seem like that big a deal. But now it’s over 100,000 words. That’s pretty scary long, and there is no end in sight. Of course, I know that a lot of what I’ve written, I’ll cut in edits. But I feel like I have to stop mindlessly drafting and make a plan of action. I need to dial it back.

This weekend, I went to the beach and didn’t think of my WIP at all. Alright, maybe a little, but I was mostly successful at distracting myself. I view this weekend as a time to recharge, have some fun, and live my life without the shadow of this amorphous and unwieldy project following me. If I hadn’t gone away, I probably would have spent most of my weekend alone in my apartment, fretting over the structural issues of my book rather than relaxing.

OK, so I recognize that I need to work on my plotting and find an ending. But what the heck do I do now?! Last week, I started a three-pronged plan of attack:

  • I’ve started a “brain-dump” document in Google Docs, where I can spit out ideas for plot, wrapping up loose ends, and things I may need to add/change/delete for this book to eventually make sense. I’m not beholden to anything I write here, and often contradict my own proposals two or three points later. For me, this is about getting all the possibilities on the table, because even rejecting a possibility is progress. Why Google Docs? So that I don’t need to be at my computer to view or edit this document. I love Google Docs, and picking up my work wherever I may be.
  • I’m also starting to write character sketches, codifying the most important qualities and the driving forces of these people I’ve spent over a hundred thousand words writing. I’ve gotten to know them pretty well, and I think trying to distill their most important qualities into a paragraph or two will help me analyze the scenes they are in that need to change, be replaced, be deleted. This is especially useful for my non-POV, but still important, characters. They might not be in every scene, but their qualities and actions affect the narrative and the trajectories of my two POV characters.
  • And finally, I’m carrying my notebook around with me almost everywhere I go. Sometimes, I rely on the Notes app on my phone, but I like having a small pad and paper to jot down ideas when they strike, or forcing myself to plot when I catch myself with a few extra minutes between appointments.

For now, I’m going to keep on keeping on with these three things, in addition to working to complete a quick outline of what I’ve already written and adding details to my scene worksheet. My goal is to figure out my ending before I start drafting again. Only time will tell if I actually stick to that. I’ll keep you posted.

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