Let’s get building!
..erm, writing. Let’s get writing.
Up til now, we’ve focused on our project’s purpose, size, appearance, and substance. What kind of story are we telling and how long will it (most likely) be? How many different ideas come up as we plot and scheme?
Last week we hit the critical selection phase and now we’re on to the actual work of writing it all down.
Fortune describes his building process this way:
Make a full-size mock-up if you need one, but make it quickly and cheaply. You’re looking to refine the proportions of the piece, not work out all the details. Then make a full-size drawing to determine the details of joinery. Proceed to construction of the real piece.
This is Stephen King telling us to “write first with the door closed.” This is Anne Lamott reminding us that it’s okay to write a “shitty first draft.”
Fortune’s advice to “make a full-size drawing” AFTER a mock-up is key here. The first draft of your story won’t work. It won’t stand up on it’s own. It’ll either be way too long or entirely too short (NOTE: the former is better, much better, than the latter). You’ll have characters behaving oddly at times because you left off their POV and came back to it not realizing just how much they changed in the previous scene.
If you’re struggling with how to make a full-size drawing of your story, this fine examination of JK Rowling’s plot spreadsheet is a good place to start. It’s a model I’ve adapted for my own storytelling, and it’s an incredible help for the revisions process. However you break down the timeline, it’s essential that you’re able to identify where each of your characters are across the story and what they’re doing, start to finish. Add in any notes you need to help you stay on track. Below are some essential elements of writing joinery that I’d suggest you include:
1. For each major character, in each scene, make note of mood, mindset, and motivation – this helps you remain consistent in dialogue, actions and decisions, and reactions to other characters and events
2. Major plot points and subplots, even if they don’t show up on the written page – this helps you remember why it’s so important that your protagonist succeed or why your antagonist just won’t give up and let the protagonist win
3. Each major character’s relevance to each plot and subplot moment – Making the above point more specific. These are the details that you attach to each character’s entry on the spreadsheet, beneath each plot and subplot moment
4. Cause-Effect relationships between character actions – essential if you want to tell a believable story that reads like more than a serious of helpful coincidences. Describing (for yourself) how your characters’ actions all interrelate will help you identify plot holes, stereotypical tropes, and overused and outdated literary devices.
Once you’ve got the details worked out from your rough draft, it’s back into the wordshop. Pick up your real stock, the material you plan to keep for the final product, and get back to writing.