I wrote a story 5 years ago that I didn’t finish called Limelight. A project for what I called our “Blog-A-Book” series, Limelight was a teaching novella that put application to the theory of writing by deconstructing the story-crafting process step by step. I worked with our blog and MBT Voices audience to pull together characters, a plot, the inner journey and then went scene by scene . . . until I hit Act 3.
Then I landed an unexpected writing project and something had to give.
The novella sat unfinished, my hero and heroine on the verge of their Black Moment Event, their Epiphany and their Triumphant Ending, free-framed, waiting for me to find the time.
Find. The. Time. Right! As time wore on, the story flow began to subside, and although I still loved the story, whenever that elusive “time” showed up, getting back into the character’s heads, the emotion and flow of the story seemed overwhelming.
Until . . . two weeks ago. I pulled out Limelight to teach as series for our MBT Premium Members called “Build-A-Book” where we start with an idea and end with a publishable book. As I started to read the story (and realized I still liked it), I knew I had to finish it.
But how to get into the flow again?
Summertime can be such a challenge for writers—vacations, kids camp schedules and house repairs cut into our writing time and we can find our writing flow disjointed, our minds scattered and our ability to identify with our characters stunted.
I discovered, as I went back to my writing chair with this story, a few tools to help me get back into the current of the story.
- I pulled out my Synopsis. Whether a story is contracted or not, I always “tell myself the story” in a rough synopsis form whenever I finish plotting and doing my character work. Although I give myself freedom to veer from this plan as I see fit, having that outline helps me know:
- If my Plot makes sense
- What research I’ll still need to do
- If I’ve completed the character’s inner journey
- If I’ve build the romance correctly.
- If I’ve capped it off with a sufficient happy ending
After I write the synopsis, I separate it into chapters so I can see, roughly, what I need to accomplish in each chapter.
I dug up the synopsis for Limelight and tracked down to where I’d left off. Now I had a game plan.
- I pulled up my Character Layering and Essential Scenes Guide. The synopsis gave me an external blueprint of the story. But I still needed to dive into the character and discover how much of himself he’d revealed to the reader—and the other characters. Character layering (and unlayering!) is a powerful way to reveal backstory naturally, mimicking the way we get to know people. In this way you can save character secrets and their dark moment story until exactly the right time for the reveal to move the story forward. Although I read the story over to get momentum, I still needed to catch up to what the reader knew about my characters, and take the next logical step.
My Character Layering Chart helped me track this revelation, and the Essential Scenes told me what I’d accomplished . . . and what I still needed to write.
- My Character Change Journey Chart. Along with my character revelation, I also needed to track my character’s inner journey. While it can sometimes feel like an organic process, the character change journey is actually a step-by-step process, something I plot out in the story. Grabbing this chart helped me figure out what scenes I still needed to write.
MBT Character Change Journey/Chart
- I re-read the story, without editing. Although I love to dig into scenes and create a more powerful emotional experience, I needed to “feel” the story, to step into the storyworld and reacquaint myself with the characters, to worry about them. Stopping to edit would only slow this down. (as an aside, I did take rewrite notes and asked questions to answer later, after I’d finished the story.) I am an Outliner AND an Organic writer, meaning I create a plan, and set up the right structure for my scene, but I also love to “feel” my way into a story and let my characters take over, so reading the story gave me that final push into the flow of the story.
- I told my writing partner the story. Nothing helps keep you on track like a story partner with whom you can discuss the overall flow and brainstorm the next scene. Hearing yourself talk it out will assist the scene in coming to life.
- I blocked out a huge chunk of writing time. Knowing it would take a bit to get my legs into the story, and estimating it would take about 15,000 words to finish, I scheduled 3 full days to write, stocked the fridge and warned my family that I would be “going dark.”
The good news is that I finished the book. And I can’t wait to put it together for the MBT audience (although with my creation notes). But if you are working on a story this summer, and need to stay “in the flow” despite your crazy schedule, here’s a few tips (in summary)
- Tell yourself the story (so you have a game plan)
- Keep a copy of the Character Layering Chart and Check off your Essential Scenes as you write them.
- Plot the Character change journey and assign each step to chapters, so you know (generally) where you are (so you can pick up where you left off)
- Read the scene just before the one you are going to write, without editing, at the top of your writing session.
- Keep your writing partner current with your story so they can brainstorm with you and give you ideas (and help keep you on track)
- Block out time to write, even if it isn’t every day. Stock the fridge, trade babysitting with a friend, send the kids to camp . . . whatever. We all know that time is valuable, so even if you don’t keep a regular schedule, don’t just give up—hunt for and protect that time.
Writing a great book doesn’t just happen. And when we have to fit it around summer fun, it has to become intentional. But with the right strategies, you can get that chapter written—and go to the beach, too!
Go! Write Something Brilliant!