Let’s Look At The Map Before We End Up In Mexico

Sorry, guys!  I’m horrendously late with this update, but last week became somewhat consumed by my need to unearth old Japanese work – and, more dauntingly, my dormant Japanese language skills – so I can start a prospective tutoring job.  Exciting, but tough!  The human brain is amazing at times, though.  It’s all coming back so fast just looking at my notes and textbooks.  It’ll take work, but it’s all about getting back to a place where I can pluck vocabulary out of the air rather than out of… anywhere else.

Anyway, yes, the book!  I sat down for the first time in ages to begin writing without interruption last week.  I began Chapter Five.  I persisted with Chapter Five.  I finished half of Chapter Five in only a couple of days.  And then I realised I had no idea what I was doing.

I now have it on good authority from a fellow writer that around Chapter Five is the place where a crisis typically sets in.  It’s because you are approaching the middle of the book, that uncomfortable sandwich filling between your good start and your suspenseful and thoroughly worth-it ending, where you have to work out what the heck your characters are going to see and do for the next ten chapters to get to the grand finale.

Obviously, there’s very little point in just blathering on without any direction, so this has led to a period of writing downtime as I focus on getting my story straight.  I have come up with several ways to get the creative ideas flowing and have been putting them into action this past week.

  1. I have taken out my ten-sided dice and created a system for randomly creating characters via dice roll.  This has worked spectacularly well, finally getting me to move away from my comfort zone and really start thinking about how to fit them into my work.  Also unsettling is that two of the characters I had already conjured up beforehand actually came out through the dice rolls.  They even had the same first initials.  Creepy.
  2. To get my characters off the page I used my (severely limited) artistic skills to draw them all out alongside one another, police line-up style.  The scale went a bit wrong – the 4’10” character appears to come to the 6’5” character’s knees – but I’m still pretty proud of it.  It’s helped me to widen the scope of my story, and actually resulted in a major epiphany for the plot.
  3. I took out a piece of pink card, cut it into little rectangles and then began writing all the plot points and potential plot points I could for the story.  Then I put them in chronological order and worked out where the gaps were in my plot.  Now I can consider how to fill those gaps, and rearrange the events in the story for the best pacing.

Here's one I made earlier. Behold the plot cards!

These techniques have been extremely helpful for my writing process and I recommend them to anyone.  I think the worst place to be in the entire world when you need to force your creativity is in front of an LCD screen, staring at an open Microsoft Word document.  I have more worthy nemeses to make than that smug little flashing cursor.

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