Ever feel a little like this guy? I know I do. When I first thought that I might like to write a book, I had a single image in mind. I didn’t know exactly what the story was, but for some reason I knew what the title would be. So I wrote it on a piece of paper and tucked it into a folder. A few weeks later, I remembered the folder and the idea, and started brainstorming names for the main characters. I still had no idea what the story was really about, so I wrote down some names and filed it in my folder. You can see where I’m going with this. I wasn’t yet a seasoned writer, I had a job, toddlers, owned a business (separate from my job), was attending grad school, and hadn’t seriously thought about writing. Over weeks an months, ideas flitted around in my brain, and I jotted them down and filed them away. When I was finally inspired with a storyline and actually started writing, I had a mess of notes and still just the framework of a plot line.
Although I’d written business and marketing plans, a bazillion college papers, and other pieces, I’d never taken on a project of such magnitude. One of the first things I did was search out methods for organizing and creating a story. I found information on writing using the Snowflake Method. This process starts with short, simple plot statements and/or character development and expands little by little. As with all writerly processes, this may work well for some and not so well for others. This seemed like a valuable possibility for building characters and plot, but it just wasn’t for me.
Another popular method focuses on using outlines. There are a couple different outlining styles to choose from, outlined best in the Writers Digest post Choosing the Best Outline Method for You. Initially, for me, this wasn’t appealing. I’ve never liked writing from outlines. When outlines were required for high school and college papers, I always wrote my paper first and created an outline from the finished project. However, after writing my first book on the fly (pantser all the way), outlining has come in handy as I’ve planned the next two books in the series.
I’m sure there are other methods, but these were the most useful for me. I’ve seen a lot of writers use cork boards and pinned notes in a scene grid, or some variation of that. This is also something I’ve tried recently as I make sure my story is fleshed out and that nothing falls through the cracks.
As far as writing goes, I still use good old fashioned Word, but I’ve been looking for something that would make writing more efficient. When I write or edit, I’m constantly trying to remember what page I’m on, while scrolling to find another section to make sure details match. If you have an outline or not board, this is helpful to an extent, but when you add content, the page numbers change adding to the mess.
Now I’m sure there are a lot of programs for writing, but from what I’ve heard, Scrivener is one of the top choices for serious writers. It’s definitely a powerful tool that seems super efficient in layout and process. The lovely Cait Spivey put together a live walk-through of how she uses it, and it looks pretty amazing. Thanks Cait!
So what are your experiences with outlining, plot building, and Scrivener. Are there other methods or programs you find useful? I’d love to hear about them! Stay tuned, this series continues Mar 11th with “Constructing a Plot.”