01 February 2012

Writing Basics : Outlining, Part One

I have some experience on all areas of the outlining spectrum. My first novel I wrote with no outline. That was a disaster. My second novel I attempted an outline, but didn't know how to do it. It worked only slightly better than my first novel. By the time I wrote my third novel, I knew what I was doing with an outline.

I've researched the topic and found many different methods of outlining. I've tried most of them, but none have worked entirely for me, so I've taken bits and pieces of them and created my own method, based on what I felt comfortable doing. You should do the same. Find what works for you, even if you thwart it from its original form, and use it.

I once read the blog of a person who said that you can't truly write anything good without outlining. I disagreed wholeheartedly. Now I know there was some truth to that. It does depend on how you outline though. That person's method didn't work for me. Mine might not work for you. That's okay, just remember that it's best if you do outline, in some form.

As to how I actually create an outline; I start with the idea.

Say I have a vision all of a sudden of a girl finding a object on a beach which turns out to be magical. There's your very basic idea.

Now, I could start writing this novel here, but I wouldn't even know where to go with it. In all likeliness, I would write myself into a corner. Backtracking is not fun, especially when you have to go back several thousand words to get back onto track.

After you get an idea that has struck you and you must write it, you should find the beginning point. Where do you want to start your story off at? Is it at the beach where the girl will find the object? Is it before, telling the reason she went to the beach in the first place? Is it much earlier, telling the history of the magical object rather than the girl? Or is it later, and the girl will perhaps have a flashback of finding the magical object?

Let's say you decide to choose that the beginning of your novel will be before her finding the magical object, and her finding the magical object will be a point in the plot later.

Now comes the part that I call free outlining. It is almost like writing without an outline, but you ignore the details. Don't use names, or work out specifics, or try to really describe anything. Simply write the very basic events that will take place. Don't even worry about solving problems, just set those problems up.

Here's your list of events:

  • MC is at school. She gets into trouble and gets detention, and thus is delayed getting home.
  • MC returns home after detention to find that there has been an accident and by being in detention, she survived it.
  • MC is forced to leave her home, somehow, and ends up in a new city, near the coast.
  • MC explores her new home and finds a secluded beach.
  • Something happens again to the MC and she starts wandering the beach in discouragement one day.
  • MC stumbles upon a box sticking out of the sand and digs it up. Inside is the magical object.
And so on, and so forth. If you know you want something to happen, but you don't know where in the plot it goes, write it down in the list anyway and you can figure out the details later. Figuring out those details will come in Part Two of this article.

31 January 2012

Solving Grammar Problems : You're & Your

There was this television show I used to watch when I was a child, though I can't recall the title, in which there was a hero named "Apostrophe" and he always came to save the day when there were two words that needed to combine for one reason or another. Now, whenever I write "you're" I picture a giant apostrophe with a cape flying to the rescue.

So, as to the grammar of you're and your:

You're is literally just you are with a apostrophe in the place of the "a" and the space squeezed out of it. You use it when you are telling someone about themselves. "You are going to be on the moon tomorrow" is the equivalent of "You're going to be on the moon tomorrow." It's just slightly less formal and generally used for dialogue.

Your is the possessive form of you. You use it when you're talking about the person owning something. "This is your monkey."

Now a review:

You're = you are
your = possessive

If you have trouble, just remember that you are is like I am, both can be shortened by an apostrophe; I'm and you're

Your is like my. They are both speaking of possession. 

Also, say it out loud. If the sentence should say you are, add an apostrophe.

I'm perfectly willing to answer questions, if needed.

Losing Procrastination

As Walt Disney once said, "The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." So how do you stop procrastinating? Quit talking and begin doing. It's actually really simple, though a hard habit to break at times.

I am a procrastinator. In fact, I'm procrastinating even now. While I should be writing a chapter of my current novel, I'm instead writing about losing procrastination. Irony is a great friend of mine. Still, I am waging a battle against my procrastination and it is helping, in small ways.

Some simple ways to stop procrastinating with your writing include setting a specific time daily to write, planning ahead, rewarding yourself for reaching certain points, and simply starting.

Start today. In fact, start right now. Don't even finish reading this post. Create a goal right this second to write at a certain time every day for a week, month, or year. Make it specific and doable. Write it down and post it up somewhere you'll see it. Then make sure to come back here.

Is your goal set? No? Now's your chance to stop procrastinating. Do it now. Is is done? Good. Doesn't that feel great? Now that you have that goal, follow through. Keep it. When that time shows up on the clock today (and hopefully you set it for sometime later today), set everything aside and write immediately. 

Now that you know when you're going to write, figure out what you're going to write. Some may say, including myself, that they simply don't know where to start. Here's a trick to solve that dilemma: the first day, write anything - plan a character, create a setting, write down that random idea that has been haunting you for a month, anything. At the conclusion of your writing for the day, make a plan of what you are going to write the following day. If you outlined something, maybe your goal is to write whatever you outlined. If you created a character, plan to start plotting about what will happen to that character in your next piece of work. Make of note of what you plan to write. Post that note somewhere you'll see it when you go to write the next day. When you sit down to write, instead of looking blankly at your computer screen without a blue and spending fifteen minutes of your writing time trying to figure out where you were, simply take a glance at that note and set off.

Now that you have all of this set up, how do you keep with it? Easy. Set a reward. Make it good, something you really want. Once you've written everyday at your set time for two weeks in a row, or another set time period, give yourself a reward. If you don't make your goal, DON'T REWARD YOURSELF. Keep trying. It will push you to make that goal and gain that reward.

Remember, losing procrastination equals starting immediately. Don't plan to start tomorrow. Do it now.