This week on the Open Book Blog Hop we’re talking about our process for outlining a story.
I feel a little guilty for joining this blog hop, but not soooo guilty as to ignore it, either. You see, this is my process for writing and outlining a story:
- I come up with an idea for a story. This is the easy part. I’ve worked with the public for over twenty years. Strangers tell me about their lives on a daily basis. You say you lost your job, your wife, your house, and your dog…but you managed to get a new job, a new house, and best of all, you got your DOG back, so God is good? (No news about your wife, though.) Alrighty then! Truth is fun stuff!!!
- I name my characters. These could be names I’ve heard while working, names I’ve seen on cemetery markers, street names, or names from a telephone book.
- I make character note cards with a brief description of each character and notable personality traits. Sometimes, I hunt down a picture of this fictional person, someone on the Internet who shares facial features with the character in mind.
- I use note cards to write a brief description of the chapters I want to write, at least one note card per chapter. Scene. Sequel. Scene. Sequel. *Jim Butcher explains this technique of Story Crafting VERY well on his blog.
- Then…I start writing. This usually goes really well until the third chapter.
- Something shiny comes along.
- Continue writing.
- Writing stops. Drama happens, either at work or in my personal life.
- Get back to writing. Self loathing is REALLY important and necessary in this step. Name calling is good. Telling myself that I’m a hack, that I’ll never be able to write anything longer than a grocery list, is great.
- Something on my body gives out, falls off, or becomes injured. The usual body parts include: wrists, shoulders, arms, knees, back…but CAN include other body parts as well. A combination of injuries is always nice. Ear infections add a festive touch!
- Go back and rehash what has already been written. By now, it’s hard to say what’s going on in this novel. Never mind the carefully written, convenient note cards listing scenes, sequels, conflict, etc. Sure, they mapped out the entire story, but at this point, I don’t see how we can trust them, do you? No. It’s best to just ignore them and all the hard work that went into making those cards!
- Become dumbfounded by what’s been written. I wrote that? Huh. I don’t remember writing that, I mean…I kind of do, but it’s all a blur. It’s not too bad, actually. Kind of funny. But, I KNOW I can make it better!
- Begin editing. No, the book’s not done, not even halfway finished, however there’s always room for improvement.
- Repeat steps 5-13 over and over until I realize I haven’t written a blog post in ages. Time to put away the novel and write something else. The novel doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anyways.
- Feel like a complete failure. This is a good opportunity to go through ALL of the past writing projects that were started and never finished. I also like to use a calendar to calculate how much time I’ve lost, how much closer I am to death, and to see what my writing buddies have been up to while I was working on my own pursuits. Wow! You’re finishing up your twentieth novel? You’re publishing another one next week? Fantastic.
- Become a recluse. I have some charming bathrobes I like to wear during this phase, ones that almost look like cleaning rags, but aren’t quite that nice.
- Binge-watch a television series on Netflix. It’s amazing how much television programming I miss out on when I’m trying to do something productive with my life. Now’s a good time to fix that problem.
- Eat copious amounts of junk food while wallowing in regret and self-hatred. I like to put on a few extra pounds at this time. When my jeans get so snug I can hardly breathe, it gives me a new “challenge” to focus on.
- Think of all the dreams that got away. When I’m in a rut, I feel it’s important to wallow hip-deep it. It’s a good size rut, bigger than a LOT of ruts, I’m sure! I’m super competitive. I don’t do anything by halves. I like to revel in my stagnation. Let’s face it, you can’t appreciate the giant gaping hole of depression and despair when you’re moving forward, so now’s the time to really LOOK at it, to see how little I’ve done with the years I’ve been given. Wow! I didn’t know it was possible to feel this bad. I don’t want to get out of bed. The world seems hopeless. Yup! I’m right on the right track.
- Claw my way out of my depressive funk. Outside intervention is extremely helpful during this step. Loved ones, exercise, better nutrition, journaling, etc is a must!
- Be grateful. Every time I manage to claw my way out of one of my depressive episodes, I’m happy to have made it to the other side in one piece. I’m grateful to feel like ME again. I’m grateful to feel happy again. I think about what’s important. My kiddo. My hubby. My family. My friends. I think about how far I’ve come. I try not to worry about all the things that are out of my control.
Despite everything, I do enjoy writing. Seriously! Anymore, I write for me. I no longer worry about writing for an audience. I don’t think I’ll ever be prolific at writing. That’s okay. It’s fun to imagine becoming famous for my words, but I’ve filed that dream in the same category as winning the lottery. It’s a fanciful dream, not a practical one. And that’s okay, too!
And all joking aside, whether you’re a writer or not, you might need some outside intervention if you’re stuck on Step 19. You’re NOT a failure. You’re NOT alone. We’ve all been there. Talk to a friend, a family member, a doctor, a counselor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to admit that you’re not doing okay, that you’re feeling lost and hopeless. You want to remain anonymous? You’re afraid to open up about what’s going on inside your head?
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1 (800) 273-8255
You don’t have to be standing on a window ledge or have a bottle of pills in your hand to call this number. It’s better to ask for help before you get to that point. You don’t have to reach rock bottom to get better. You’re not the only one who’s felt the way you do. Sometimes, it’s hard. You feel so hollow, you don’t know if you can ever feel happy again. But I promise, there are over 7 BILLION people on the planet and each one of us is screwed up in our own unique way. Just admitting your feelings can be freeing! Getting all of those thoughts and emotions out there, rather than burying them inside yourself, is important.
May you have more happy days than bad ones! xo Juli
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