Writing Through the Crap

Brystan and I are going to spend the month talking about when to trunk a novel, when to press on, and how to tell what the right choice is.

To kick us off for February, I thought I’d reflect on the last six hours, which was built on the last three weeks of my journal with Basiyon.

Yes, my code name for my project changed.  I figured out a few weeks ago I was writing in the frame of a post apocalyptic city redemption story when I intended on throwing the city out the window and starting anew.  So I began untangling a bunch of city politics from my story.  If you’ve read my work, or played in my campaigns, you know infrastructure and society interaction is fascinating to me.  It does not necessarily make a good story.

So I ripped that apart, quickly jotted down a very broken outline, and told myself, this will be better. I know what I’m doing.

And I did. Three weeks ago.  Today, not so much.  I read a line from one of those outline scene points, and didn’t understand it as even a sentence fragment.  So, a bit of panic.  But when in doubt, BICHOK, right? Sit your butt down and type it out.

Felicity without her political and societal machinations was that clueless cheerleader stereotype.  Not what I wanted.  So I tried again.  Now she was an angry vindictive clueless cheerleader. No! I thought I’d gotten past writing the Angry Female. If a character is angry, there needs to be a reason.  Not the author is angry at the scene.

So I took some time.  I typed up the outline notes.  I listened to my novel playlist.  Last night, I was considering trunking this story.  In the process of getting that outline into Dabble, I figured it out.  I keep saying, “whenever I get stuck, I just need to add dinosaurs.”

Well, Fel wasn’t working.  I added her pet Drakk, and a simple grooming scene accomplished what six attempts at a market scene couldn’t. Remove the dinosaurs and dragons, and the story doesn’t work.  Put them front and center?  Things work just fine.


My way of writing is…interesting, to say the least. I compare it to growing a pea plant.

ddd Photo (c) Alachua County 

I cannot write without an outline.  I simply can’t.  I’ve spent the last four months trying, but I…can’t.  

But I can’t do a full outline, either.  If I outline a story out to the point where I know every twist and turn, I can’t get anywhere. 

I tried reading a book called Story Structure years ago, and it talked about building a novel being like building a skyscraper. You had to have a plan, a good foundation, to build a story that could take you to the top.  Around the same time, I read something Neil Gaiman wrote or said, about–ok, it wasn’t Neil Gaiman, but I can’t find who it was.  Somebody in 2012, ring any bells?  But how writing–and pantsing is like planting a seed, carefully watering it, and watching it grow on its own.

As a former pantser, these two images meshed in my head.  I needed the steel struts and poured concrete of the planner’s architect setup.  But I also needed the seed and the grasping vines of the planted pantser seed.


The one thing I’ve learned from this project is Tarot helps me get a sense of direction, and a complete outline–without me having to know the particulars.  I know, for example, that the city is represented by Queen of Cups.  So I know the strengths and weaknesses.  I know the black moment will be informed by…actually, I don’t.  That’s one of the things I lost when I lost years of records.  Which, is fine.  Today, I’m different than when I drew the cards in July.  The story’s changed focus and intent.  It makes sense to do a new reading. AND USE TRUSTWORTHY SOFTWARE.


So, in conclusion, I think it’s important to figure out what works for you.

I’ll talk more about how to get past the breakdown, the freezes, the frustration and sorrow next time.  For now, remember: only you can write your book.  That means you have to write it your way.  Also, you may have to re-invent the wheel every time you write a  book.  The same method may not always work.  The key is to adapt, and try to change.

But! February’s topic is trunking a novel, the temptation to do it when you shouldn’t, and the resistance to avoiding it when you need to.  Talk to us on Twitter about this via #LongStoryShort! Tell us about your experience, and your advice for us and our readers.

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