Allison Temple Blog

Awkward and Thoroughly Kissable
Posts tagged plotting
Who are You?
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Work Up Character/Setting Profiles?

(this post is based on the Marketing for Romance Writers 52 Week Challenge)

So on the one hand, I like to think of myself as an organized writer. I'm definitely a plotter. I love The Writer's Journey and Romancing the Beat. I don't start writing until I have a synopsis that breaks down what's going to happen in every scene from beginning to end.

On the other hand, I am not that meticulous about my characters, and especially about my settings. I build Pinterest boards for each book with visual inspiration (this is mostly an excuse to search for pictures of hot guys, sue me). I write character sketches and setting descriptions while I'm plotting, and then promptly never refer to them again, unlike that synopsis I mentioned, which I check in on at the start of every scene.

Last year, I found these great character questions from Mia Hopkins, and they are super useful when building character sketches (even ones you never look at again).

I say I hate you because… But I really love you because… The thing I dread most is… Because I crave… But you provide a better substitute, which is…

These are really helpful, because they make you think about your character's behaviour, rather than just the things that happen to them. So often, I see new writers put together character sketches that are just a list of facts, rather than a discussion of who their characters are. Things like what their job is, who their friends and siblings are, the tragic thing that happened to them when they were five years old. These are good, but providing the emotional context is better.

Oliver is a lawyer. He has worked for the firm for 10 years. He is a workaholic.

Oliver is a lawyer. He prides himself on putting in his best effort at everything, including his job, where he has worked for the last 10 years. This pride has taken a wrong turn somewhere, because now he feels he can't leave the office before 10 pm, otherwise people will think he's slacking. He's worried about looking less dedicated to his job than his colleagues, even though he has more case wins under his belt than anyone else at his level.

See how much richer that is? Even if I never refer to it again, it's building a more detailed character in my head, which let's me jump into my story faster.

How do you build your characters?

Please Don't

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Worst Writing Advice I've Ever Gotten

(this post is based on the Marketing for Romance Writers 52 Week Challenge)

That is an excellent question. For every aspiring writer there is a book, course, website, blog, podcast, or man on the street with pamphlets, with helpful tips on how to BE a writer. Many have conflicting points of view. So what might be the worst advice for me, might be the exact motivation you need.

I can tell you the things that I do and don't do.

DO

  1. Plot
  2. Write sequentially
  3. Skip sentences and paragraphs
  4. Tell your inner editor to shut up while drafting
  5. Deviate from your plot, but find a way back to it by the end
  6. Make time for your writing and guard that time fiercely
  7. Read your book out loud at least once before you let anyone else read it
  8. Keep looking for ways to improve your craft and your process

DON'T

  1. Mix editing and drafting. Fix a typo if you must, leave the rest until the draft is done
  2. Skip whole scenes. If you don't know why you need this scene, go back to your plotting
  3. Write every day if you don't feel like it
  4. Jump into a draft because you're sure you know what's going to happen, even if you haven't finished plotting
  5. Compare your progress to anyone else's
  6. Get discouraged when you realize your first (or sixth) draft is crap. Everything is fixable
  7. Start drafting something new until you've finished the first draft you're currently working on

The worst advice? Someone (Stephen King? Obama? I don't know) said that if you haven't finished your draft within six months (a year? two years? I don't know that either), then you're probably never going to finish it. This is crap. See my list above. If you want to write, commit to writing, but don't set a time limit on whether you pass or fail. The Pick Up took me two years to write the first draft. I just wrote Cold Pressed in five weeks. Neither is more or less valid. As long as your still making progress, it's all good.

The View from Here (10 Days to 20k, Day 6)

IMG_0108.JPG That sound you hear? The Jaws-theme-like music of something creeping up ominously behind you? That's me, creeping up on my goal with shark-like determination. I'm seriously so close I want to write 200 more words just so I can say I completed my challenge in six days, but I stopped in a good place where it should be fairly easy to pick up tomorrow, so it's probably better if I just stand here, Peter Pan style, with my legs apart and my hands on my hips, looking dead proud at what I've accomplished.

I don't think I've ever written so many words so fast in my entire life. I'm going to try to hit 30k before I get home next Monday. If I could take a couple more weeks off, I'd probably finish this draft completely, but let's not get too silly right?

Here's the thing: Thank god for my synopsis. When I plot, I write out every single scene in a list. Just 2-3 sentences per scene, so I know what happens next. Sometimes I move them around. Sometimes I get to that part of the story and realize that scene doesn't make sense or isn't needed anymore. Sometimes I go off-road for a couple scenes before I find my way back.

But the synopsis means when I'm drafting fast, I never have to stop to figure out what happens next, because I already did that months ago.

I know writers have different feelings about outlines and plotting, but I honestly don't know how you could write a usable first draft if you don't do some up front planning work. If you're one of those people who can, please, share your wizardry with me!

PS - today there was some actual kissing! Yes, despite the fact that I write romances, sometimes it takes my characters FOREVER to get around to actual kissing. I'm hovering at the 50k mark, and this is the first lip lock. I promise it will happen faster by the time you get to read this.

10 Days to 20k Summary Day: 6 Words Written Today: 5,045 Total Words Written: 19,843 Words Left: 157 Percent Complete: 99%