pandora/ipod: “i got a feeling” by the black eyed peas which i friggin hate but which is stuck in my head like a satanic chant
So I lied to you. Get used to it, people. Wasn’t the first time, won’t be the last. At the end of last week’s How-To post I said that Chapter Three would be all about editing.
Kinda hard to edit something if you haven’t freaking written it yet.
CHAPTER THREE: THE WRITING
You have your idea, your golden, fantastic, original idea. You’ve done your research, your fun, sometimes frustrating pile of research. There are no more excuses, no more reasons to procrasti—
Wait a minutes, what about an outline?
Ah, the age-old controversy: to outline or not to outline. Everybody does it differently. There are traditional outlines, snowflake outlines, three-act outlines, color coded note card outlines, Venn-freaking-diagram outlines. In the other camp we have people who firmly resolve to keep the whole thing in their heads and only let it spill out on paper as the writing gods allow.
I fall somewhere in the middle. I usually outline – roughly – the first act, and conceptualize acts two and three at the time I start writing. That way, I get a good, firm start but there’s plenty of leeway for those plot wrenches characters are so fond of throwing in your way.
Okay, recapping: idea, research, outline (or not). Let the writing commence!
The basics. Double space your manuscript. Nope, no argument. Just do it. One in margins, your name, title and page number in the upper corner of your header like this:
McNeil / BANISH / 1
Type in Times New Roman or Courier New fonts. “But Curlz looks better with my manuscript!” Suck it up, cupcake. Agents don’t want to read that eyesore. Start chapters on a new page, clearly labeled and set of section breaks with something – I used this right in the middle of the page:
New paragraphs indented. When you’re done, type “THE END.”
That’s the best part.
It sound simple, and at first it feels simple. Beginnings usually flow well for me because I know where I’m going. It’s usually somewhere in the dreaded middle that the wheels start to come off and I’m looking for any excuse to pitch my laptop out of the window and pretend that I never started that manuscript at all. Everyone has different methods for getting through the rough spots. I tend to skip sections/chapters if I’m feeling particularly stuck. For me, its usually a character motivation issue and I tend not to have a total sense for my characters until I’m at least halfway through a manuscript. Other people force their way through, like a jackhammer on concrete. Still others make notes and then move on, planning to come back later.
There’s no “write” way. (I’m so punny today.) My recommendation is you come up with some sort of schedule or daily word goal. You can do this many words at a time, this many days a week. You’ll see your progress surging forward and it will help you to work through the days when you don’t feel like writing anything.
And remember this: YOU ARE ALLOWED TO WRITE UTTER POO! I credit that line to my friend Cindy Pon and it’s really helped me. Rough drafts are just that – rough. They are meant to be fixed, dissected, reanimated and generally reassembled at a later date. But for now? Just get the damn words on the page, mkay? You can worry about the rest later.
I swear I’m not lying now when I say this: next week – CHAPTER FOUR: THE EDITING!