May 19, 2009

The Good, The Bad and the Revisions

Reading a recent post on first drafts by author LJ Sellers had me glad that I was on the right track, at least in some ways.

Writing is individual, of course, and everyone has their own method. Stories or books, I tend to do the same thing. I admit it; I'm an outliner.

1. Outline

Yes, not everyone's cup of tea. But once the idea comes, I like to write it out. I put down all the main events and can fill in the rest as I write. For a book, I outline chapter by chapter so I know where to go next. Things do change as you write, and things are added or deleted as needed.

2. Make a Plot Chart

I outline keeping a chart in mind that another writer had told me about - Make a chart of 5 boxes across with 5 rows. Keep turning points in mind for the 5th box (chapter 5), the 10th and especially the 15th. Initially I use the box method, then I write out the action and plot points per chapter and print it out.

3. Revise later

One thing I can't seem to do. A bad habit - I tend to go back and go over things. This is a rewrite, of sorts. I catch mistakes, change things, but it can halt your progress, too. A better idea: reread the last few graphs to get you back in the story and continue.

Resist rereading and revising until the end of the next chapter. (Even better, don't reread until you write The End if you are that disciplined. I confess, I'm not.)

4. Get Organized

LJ offers a good suggestion about making a character database. Good idea. I have things written in my outline and have them in mind since I'm still working on the book. Bad idea to trust my faulty memory. I'll have to work on this once the book is done since I won't recall everything later. A character chart will help in keeping everything straight for future stories.

5. Keep the flow going

It can be hard to pick up where you left off when you are writing a few days, then stopping and going back (hence the rereading habit). The outline helps keep me on track and writing even a few hundred words keeps me going. (Better than zero words).

What usually works better is to make a writing goal of a certain amount of words per day. Relocating to another area, like the library or coffee shop might help. A schedule change can help spur a better word count since time then has to be used more productively. Of course, some days it doesn't work. Sometimes writing out of sequence - getting parts down for a future chapter can help. You can always flesh it out later. And yes, sometimes it's best just to go write something else for awhile.

** Share your writing style. How do you keep focused? Do you outline? How do you keep going on a book or story?


  1. Great article and tips. I have what I call a "story board" that is sorta like what you mentioned. I keep a card for every chapter of my book: chapter page numbers, characters involved, and a brief summary of the plot points.

  2. I don't outline. I'm like Tony Hillerman was in that respect. The story is "written" in my head first.

    If I have an idea that requires a change in what I've written, I make it then, not at the end. I've discovered if I wait to the end before I make changes, the change doesn't get all the way through. Which means later in the book something is wrong: non-consistency, non-coherency, and lack of comprehension are the result.

    Others can do whatever they wish, but my way works for me, and there are fewer mistakes.


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