Where to begin? This is the question countless creative minds become overwhelmed with. Strains of storylines and magically charismatic characters await in the limbo.
In my experience as an indie author, I have investigated the ways of pantsers and plotters; of pen on paper free-form flowing world builders and meticulous outliners. As many writers as there are, there are an equal number of methods for preparing and creating a work in progress.
Currently, my WIP is a steampunk trilogy about a renowned inventor on a personal quest who is sidetracked when an evil force attacks the city. She encounters friends and foes, traipses through romance, and leads her new posse into bloody victory.
Your WIP might follow a similar story arc or theme, no matter what genre you are writing. As I begin this brand new project, I will take the time to include you in some step-by step behind the scenes processes. Together, we can learn and share ideas. I believe that Indie Authors fulfill an active creative community that is stronger together!
My WIP was inspired by a poem I wrote. I thought to myself, "Hey Self, you could write a whole bunch of poems on this theme!" To which I replied, "Yes, Self, I have had that idea bubbling in my brain for almost a decade." To which I had to have the final word and said,"Whoa! Wait! What if, instead of more poems, we write a BOOK with a story! A beginning, middle, and end!" I agreed vehemently, and thus the concept of "Watch City" was born.
The next steps included me brainstorming, jotting down ideas, imagining characters... lots of daydreaming and listening.
There was no real writing involved in this brainstorming stage. Just fragments of ideas, vagrant conversations, and dream-scaped settings. As divulged in my "Where Writers Write" series, I keep paper and pen on my person at all times, and in drawers, cabinets, glove compartments, teapots, and under the bathroom sink. My handy dandy iPhone is convenient as I furiously and desperately type rushing thoughts into the notes section, before my brilliant ideas evaporate like cotton candy steam.
As fragments become connected and I see a fluid story forming amongst the rocks of ended muse, I take a break for character development. Time for the super fun part, naming the characters. My main character's name changed as I plucked it from the identity of a supporting character. I will get into naming characters in a future blog; I am one of those people who gets way into names. I already have the names for the next four British princes and princesses and their dogs picked out, in case the Royal Family needs ideas.
Now I have character sheets with names, physical descriptions, particular attributes, relationships to other characters, jobs or careers, talents, tragic flaws, and personality points. Character's names may be changed, and characters may be scrubbed off the pages when the manuscript is written, but for me, it helps to have a name. I like to go a step further and really imagine what these characters look like, how they present themselves, and what aura they send out to the world. This is where being a model comes in as a handy skill, as I can pose and reflect on what the characters look like and feel like. I gain inspiration from image searches online, and meld faces and bodies in my mind's eye, creating my vision of who these new imaginary friends of mine really are.
I continue my mad high-tech skills on Pinterest, to find out what other indies do to make a clear, easy, simple, unconfusing, lucid (have I mentioned I have a hard time with directions?) plan for visually outlining a novel. Here are some links which I found helpful and copy-catted:
This is why I hoard paper and writing utensils. You just never know when that poster board leftover from unmade yard sale signs six summers ago will come in handy!
Lookit me, using a ruler and doing math and stuff! I measured the length and width of the poster board and kinda calculated about how far apart to mark dots to connect into columns.
I did a pretty great job of measuring squarish shapes.
A magic rainbow of sticky-notes was magically delivered! (Starving artists such as myself appreciate Amazon gift cards even when it's not a holiday or through sorcery.)
Hung up the board and my character sheets and another plotting scheme which I will get into with you another time. Writing the title of my WIP made it seem official and inspiring to me. "Watch City: Waltham Watch" is like a little wish coming true! Now it's time to make a rainbow!
Following the methods linked above, I began the rainbow formation. My main character is Tess (I'm sorta falling in love with her by the way). Here is how the colour coding works:
PURPLE: "Stasis." A scene that shows a state of rest or relative calm, like a break in the action. In "Watch City: Waltham Watch," Tess is sipping tea on a train.
PINK: "Trigger." A scene that sparks a result. In "WC:WW," the train crashes.
GREEN: "Quest." The scene changes as the focus is spurred on by the trigger. In "WC:WW," Tess is forced to postpone her journey and moves in to a boarding house.
BLUE: "Bolt." A setback to the plan enacted in "Quest." In "WC:WW," Tess is tempted by romance to mentally escape her frustrating situation, and becomes sidelined from her goal.
YELLOW: "Shift." The character experiences internal change which begins to evolve into a different version of themselves by the end of the story. In "WC:WW," Tess sees the damage caused when she chose selfishness over selflessness, and decides to acquire a new goal of helping the people of the city.
ORANGE: "Defeat." Sacrifices, obstacles, and death keep the main character from achieving the goals. In "WC:WW," the bad guys attack the city again, and when Tess rallies her new posse to defend themselves, there is bloodshed.
PINK WITH LINES (I didn't have more colours! You might want to invest in more shades of sticky-notes, but I was all set with this solution.): "Power." The character finds the inner strength, forgotten knowledge, faith, or good ol' moxie to push through and work towards goals despite defeat. In "WC:WW," Tess finds strength in her posse and devises a way for them to fight effectively together to defeat the bad guys.
BLUE WITH LINES (Again, I neglected to invest in additional colors so I added lines. You can go ahead and add more coloured squares all you like!): "Resolution." A goal has been achieved, a victory has been accomplished, or positive changes in outlook or heart have come to the character. In "WC:WW," Tess discovers new love, and allows herself to form strong relationships.
This is a summary of one story arc. This will be repeated and added to as supporting characters and villains reveal themselves and twist and turn the plot around.
Now I am going through all my scribbles and brainstorms and flashes of ideas and transferring them onto appropriate squares on the story board. This is an easy and visual way for me to physically pick apart what I want to go where and when. I added little trinkets and related objects to focus my personal vision.
In "Ask an Indie Volume 5," I will explain the "Goal, Motivation, Conflict" charts I made, with poster board left over from a collage project! This is why I have such a hard time throwing things away: everything is useful at some point!
I hope you found this encouraging! I'd love to hear back from you. You can email me here with your feedback!