Anyone who knows me knows I am a hard-core plotter. Under tight deadlines, it was important that I know where I was going – I didn’t have the time to do long exploratory manuscripts or puzzle things out in drafts. Of course, this is also my particular writing style. I like to plan, I lay things out, and I write in linear chronological order. That’s how I work.
I also help my coaching clients get from nebulous story ideas to plot points, no matter what their particular writing style is. I’m used to pulling order from chaos.
On a certain level, it seems organized, very structured. It’s like sudoku: you know what the story is supposed to add up to, then you look at the pieces and see where they fit. That said, the people I work with are usually baffled by the fact that I can somehow “look at” the amorphous mess of ideas that they have and come up with a three-act structure in an hour.
But writing is like any other art. It involves a balance between logic and intuition. Structure and unpredictability.
Magic, if you will.
When the templates and prep and planning don’t work, I believe it ultimately comes down to the subconscious. On a gut level, you know what your story should be. It’s just a matter of unlocking that, getting it from your gut to your brain.
Unfortunately, your subconscious speaks its own language.
When I have been beating my head against a wall, stuck on my own story, all the figuring and planning in the world are useless. I know there’s a story there. I can feel it. And I often wonder why my subconscious won’t just pony up and give me the answers I’m seeking.
But the thing is, my subconscious usually is giving me answers. I am just not always attuned to hearing them.
Think of it this way: if my subconscious was another person, I’d be yelling at them in English: “What do I do with this character? Is this the way the story should go? What’s the theme?”
And my subconscious is shouting back: “Clock! Beagle! Vague feeling of anxiety! The color blue! Lake Erie!”
What the heck do you do with that? [Read more…]