Writer’s Log: 2751

A wing and a pear

I used to be able to wing it. When I wrote long narrative, I could keep the story and its direction in my mind and maintain my writing pace. Even having to pause and return days or weeks later, I could recall the plot and, within a few minutes, jump back in and get writing again.

Not anymore.

Well, this sucks, I keep thinking, as I fail to immerse myself into my latest efforts. This won’t do at all. With my desire to continue to write long narrative I’ll have to find another way. I’d love to get back to the dozen novels I’ve started, half of which still retain some merit—as far as the story, characters and theme go. Yet, how can I proceed if I can’t remember a damn thing about them anymore?

This is not to say that I haven’t intentionally plotted out previous stories. For my second book, I drew out arcs of action and general plot as the story had become complex enough to warrant some intelligent design. So, I’ll say I do have some experience regarding the creation of such a plan.

Not to mention the fact that I’ve designed, documented and constructed hundreds of complex software projects… Pretty hard to code seat-of-the-pants style and produce anything folks would pay for.

Yet, I can’t bring myself to become a full Plotter. Where’s the fun in that? Sure, software requires exquisitely detailed design documents to ensure you’re not building down a blind alley. But tech-spec’ing a story? Fuck that.

I recall a fellow writer who swore by the snowflake method. Blech! I’m not designing some computer game, encircling the wagon train, drawing tighter and tighter circles of detail until, voila’, at the end you have a completed novel. That sounds like work to me. If I’m not writing for money — and who can these days? — why would I burden myself with a writing style that feels like labor, like torture?


Now, what was I getting at (flips back to the beginning)… Oh yeah, a compromise.


The Next Mountain writing style

“Let’s get over this mountain, down through the valley, and up the next one. After that, we’ll see what we see and plan our future steps accordingly.”

If I can finagle out the next chapter or two, rough them in with broad strokes only, then maybe I can keep my wits but not build an inescapable cage. That’s the thought, anyway. Draw some boundaries, but not full guardrails.

There’s an added benefit here, as well. I’ve mentioned in the past that I like to dream-design, load my mind with a problem or a projected scenario and let my semi-conscious take a stab at solving, or at least extending the proposed path. Falling asleep with my current story in mind is a great way to entertain myself. “What should Carmen do with the freakish Geiger counter? Where did that harpy stash Borson’s stolen pocket watch? The river is too swift and wide, what will Tris and Doolie have to abandon to get across?”

I don’t get perfect inspiration, but shaking up the puzzle box does often result in random linkages that make sense and serve as fodder for development.

Of course, ultimately, the story’s full arc needs some purposeful approach. The end-run most likely needs to have been considered, else we’re just wandering from sand dune to sand dune, never finding the creek or the cliff. Knowing the landing zone, as broad and amorphous as it might be, helps the story maintain an intelligible trail.

So, for now, until my faculties can’t even get me through the next paragraph or three, I’ll attempt to sketch just far enough into the story’s future to keep me focused but not constrained.


Do you have techniques to keep you focused on your stories and the cogent direction you wish to take them?

13 thoughts on “Writer’s Log: 2751

  1. Maybe just keep it simple and make a separate document with a running synopsis to quickly add to whenever you think of something. Doesn’t have to be carefully plotted at all. The brain will continue to work on it. And if it falls by the wayside and you pick it up again later, you’ll have the synopsis.


      1. I’ve effectively done exactly that, Hetty.
        But I keep the notes in the doc itself.
        … A title (no numbered chapters — easier to swap them around)… — here’s a straight copy —

        Envoy-bot Tracking
        Where the package is revealed to contain the head of Marianne. Where Drex reprograms the envoy-bot to lead he and Channy to the location from which it was sent. Where Drex & Channy patch into the Rival’s comms. Where they make a discovery as to the extent of Rival’s network and how it’s the cause of the supply chain failures. Where Drex and Channy return to the Grotto and make plans to reconnect with “B”.
        Where is B?
        Where Drex & Channy travel to UtoHood and the underground there. Where they’re ambushed by Rival’s Enforcer-bots. Where Channy, dressed as an alpaca, plays dead, but is able to track Drex (he’s got a unique ping that shifts its ID based on Drex’s mood) and his captors through the maze of — what does the world’s cities look like now? RFID chipped leisure lords who have only to wave their wrists to get sim-coffee, sim-burgers, sim- no, not sim, ersatz, faux, fake, mock, zat-coffee, zat-milk, zat- synthetic meats and refined foods : syn-tacos. Streets are clean, the population seems happy, but there’s unrest outside a pastry shoppe.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Not to venture too much into OCD territory, but maybe try putting it into a numbered or bulleted list form, with a plot point as the main heading and then the little images/details logged below them?

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Characters show up and start talking to me. I might have an end game, or I might have a starting point, that’s it. Okay, here’s a dead guy. How’d he get that way? Okay, here’s a kid from Louisiana who wants to know about custom cars, gets an apprenticeship with a fading Los Angeles legend. And the characters show up and start talking.
    My wife just had a paper published by the National Conference of College Teachers of English (?) NCCTE? This is after years of not writing much but syllabi and various Lit/writing PowerPoints. And it was the same as when she wrote her dissertation. She slugs it out, gets stumped, sleeps on it and the next day there it is, she goes back and fixes it. And she has all these self-doubts because she is an academic traditionalist, not a trend speak/today’s agenda. And is always surprised when the hot button people don’t get published and she does. And that’s a post in itself.
    You know how I feel. The stories are out there. The harder you work at it, the harder it is. A learned and embedded skill set helps with reifning the product, or making it less painful on the first pass which is why first year music student recitals are painful, first year ballet recitals are comical. But Rick Wakeman has been playing a certain piece for 45 years and still hasn’t got the arrangement he really likes.
    The simple version of this comment is “You can’t manufacture inspiration”. I want little Whozit and and her dog to go through these adventures, here’s 2k a day. Do that and It’ll read like that.


  3. Yesterday, the Writers Supporting Writers gang (all 5 of us) did another video chat on exactly this topic. It should be posted on the blog within the next couple of weeks, so look out for it. Not sure we have any answers, but at least you’ll hear our thoughts on the ups and downs of getting writing projects done.
    And the blog is no longer dysfunctional.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember when Isaac Asimov returned to his Foundation universe after decades of being away from it. He’d just received a large advance. He wrote in an author’s note that he pulled out a manuscript he’d started years earlier, but had never finished. He had no idea where he was originally going with it, but after reading it as far as it went, just started making up new stuff from there.

    I’ve often thought about that when considering the only time I’ve produced a novel length work, during a Nanowrimo run, when I just forced myself to sit down every evening and grind out 2000 words, even when I had nothing. I don’t intend to ever publish the result, but I was surprised that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might have been. Which is to say, there’s something to be said for sheer bloody minded production, even when you don’t feel like you have anything.

    But I’m interested to see what other suggestions you might get here.

    Liked by 1 person

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