But because many authors believe and will try to convince you that coming up with a synopsis or outline before you write your manuscript (ms) is the only way to go, I've tried and tried to be "good." Unfortunately, whenever I sat down to plot, outline, write a synopsis, or whatever think-first-write-later label you give it, nothing happened. No words made it onto the paper. It was as if I had writer’s block. I simply couldn’t come up with the big picture first. Maybe I’d psyched myself out by thinking I couldn't plot before writing, maybe it was the pressure of having to come up with major turning points and the black moment off the top of my head...or perhaps it's because in high school and college I wrote my papers and then did the outlines, even if the outlines were due first.
Yet whenever I sat down to write the ms, pages came out. I didn’t have much trouble meeting my page goals. Eventually I came across a Jo Beverly workshop, "Flying through the Mist.' She’s one of the multi-pubbed, multi-RITA winning authors who don’t plot first. That she and others succeed this way convinced me that I could. You can too. And NANO is the perfect time to spend more time writing and less thinking. How do you start?
Every ms, every scene starts with an idea. Maybe it’s something that pops into your head, the story you've "always wanted to write,” or a premise triggered by something you've read or seen, or an image of a character or a plot element. The beginning of the opening scene of my first two releases popped into my head and I went from there.
You’ve probably read that "what if" (WI) is a great generating tool. Such as, what if a bride ran away from her wedding? If you WI and question each idea, you can expand and expand.
In my first book, AT HIS COMMAND (Golden Heart® winner), this scene (set in medieval England, of course) popped into my head: A woman was collapsed on a horse that was slowly making its way over a small hill. Immediately the questions began. What’s wrong with her, is she dead or ill? Who is she? Who’d see her, and what would he/she/they do? What if someone was following her? Who would that be? My answers were: She’s collapsed from exhaustion. She’s a lady running from her former brother-in-law who wants to marry her. A knight and his men saw her, then saw a man ride over the hill and try to grab her when she woke up. What would your answers be?
Once I have a story or scene idea and do a bit of questioning, I write down what I have. Then I envision what's happening through the POV character’s eyes, as if each scene were a movie in playing my head. I take myself, the author, out of the picture and let the characters be who they are and act the way they want and/or need to. I don’t want to impose my thoughts or plans on them, which is called author intrusion....when readers can tell the author is trying to get something, often backstory or some sort of research, across. I want to see what they’ll do without me pulling the strings. Try it and see what happens.
I’ve been asked if I wind up with lots of wasted pages, but so far that hasn’t happened. If I cut something, I keep it in a separate file and often reuse most of what I’ve written in another part of the ms.
Pantsing has a lot to do with freeing yourself from conscious thoughts, concerns and fears. The goal is to free your mind and silence your judgmental voice that worries and asks nagging questions like, “Is this high concept enough?” “Is this good enough?” “Is this what my critique group meant?” “Will this sell?” You can deal with questions like these while revising.
Many authors say their synopses change when they write the book, but they still need to come up with a sellable one in the first place. And many plotters believe writing the synopsis first is the best way to be sure you have strong enough conflict and character arcs.
Whether you plot or don’t plot, you have to find the process that works best for you. Gather ideas from friends, workshops, articles, and develop your own method. Forcing what works for others to work for you is like fitting that square peg into a round hole. Over time, with each new ms, you can adapt and add new things you’ve learned.
About the Author
Ruth Kaufman is a Chicago author, on-camera and voiceover talent, freelance editor and speaker with a J.D. and a Master’s in Radio/TV. FOLLOW YOUR HEART is the second standalone book in her Wars of the Roses Brides series. Writing accolades include Romance Writers of America® 2011 Golden Heart® winner and runner up in RT Book Reviews’ national American Title II contest.
- Website: www.ruthkaufman.com
- Twitter: @RuthKaufman
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ruthtalks
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7454412.Ruth_Kaufman
- Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Ruth-Kaufman/e/B00JH7Z40S
On a quest to redeem his family name and lands, Sir Adrian Bedford must marry without delay. But what woman he’d accept would wed an impoverished former nobleman who insists on an unusual stricture in their marriage contract? Joanna, a woman striving to succeed in a man’s world.
When irresistible attraction makes their marriage of convenience inconvenient, will his dangerous secrets keep them from following their hearts?
Follow Your Heart is available at Amazon.