#writingcraft: What Worksheets Work?

#writingcraft: What Worksheets Work?

I started out as a pure pantser with my only guide being yWriter. That rough draft still sits in a folder of one of my clouds waiting patiently for me to return to it.

The poor thing needs so much revision, when and if I get back to it, it will be a total rewrite. One of the major problems is I did not to any preparatory work on the project except for a short worksheet on the main character. Even with that, I changed so many things about my protagonist, the worksheet became worthless.

At a snail’s pace, I have been learning to accept the fact I need to be a plotter–of sorts anyway. My short-term memory loss issue is getting in the way of me ever having a book published, that and those rare days when my motivation cannot be thrust into motion no matter what I try. If I am ever going to get any manuscript finished, I need outlines and summaries already done. The incidental days are not of great concern to me; that is as long as they are not frequent. As they are so far, I will call them mental health days meant to be used to take care of myself instead of the project I am working on.

Trying to find the right approach to this preliminary work has been vexing. Googling for worksheets generated page upon page of sites offering guides of all kinds promising to make the task of writing easier. I find myself being reluctant to use the templates that have more than three pages worth of questions for me to answer about the characters, plot, and/or scenes. Bits and pieces of the plot are already in my head so that all that is needed is a brief summary. The fine details will come to light as I need them. The same goes for the characters and scenes, although, with the former, I like having “complete” worksheets on the main characters so if I forget the color of the hair, how tall or short they are, or any of those pesky details, I can just click on the worksheet to get the prompt.

In the end, I went with the worksheets from Creative Writing Now. The site also offers courses but, as you have probably guessed, I cannot afford them. One thing I noticed right away about one of the guides was there was not the word, plot, or any form of it on the page. They call it a novel outline. Even at that, it is more of a summary with prompts. It should not make any difference but, psychologically, I felt as if the authors of the site, Nancy Strauss and Linda Leopold Strauss knew what type of writer I am and had addressed their offers in such a way that I was sure to accept them.

My worksheets include:

  • Novel Outline Summary
  • Character Outline
  • Scene Outline

I do not need a world building outline because my project is in the historical genre. Still, as I write each scene, I am doing research on the era of my story, hoping I am putting the reader into the thick of the tale I am writing.

Some authors use what is called beat sheets. They kind of combine the three outlines using a spreadsheet mode. Jami Gold has several templates of this kind at her blog. If I feel I am getting stuck on this journey, I will pop over to her domain and pick one of the forms to download and use.

Have you found the worksheets that do the job for you? I am interested in knowing which ones and why you picked them.

“I’ve always said, ‘I have nothing to say, only to add.’ And it’s with each addition that the writing gets done. The first draft of anything is really just a track.” ― Gore Vidal

 

#writingcraft: Was It Too Simple?

As the post of the first week of the month, I’m ascribing the Twitter hashtag, #writingcraft from here on out.

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Was It Too Simple?
image by Gordon Wrigley
https://www.flickr.com/photos/tolomea/

Two months I wrote about the possibility of getting worse at the craft of writing. I thought my solution was to take a basic grammar class. I do believe I deluded myself. The course started out with the elementary aspects. I thought it would rush along to topics of a naive writer, like what words are more appropriate than others in certain content. Contradictory to my assumption, it stayed focused on the fundamentals. It wasn’t at all what I was looking for. Maybe I just need to open my style book more often.

After discovering the frivolousness of that course, I took another look at some of the unfinished stories I had tucked away in my cloud. My presumption about these works was I was overwhelmed about how to proceed with each of these stories. I thought I had so many ways to go I had gotten totally perturbed and rattled.

Now, my hunch is swaying me completely the other way and even onto a different path. Maybe what I was experiencing wasn’t overpowering dumbfoundedness from complexity. Maybe it was aversion for the stories themselves to the point where my reluctance to go on with them was what was overwhelming. Concededly, there were a few twists in these stories, however, they didn’t take the main character off the beaten track. It was more of a case of move that branch or throw that rock out of the way. Boring stuff.

Sometimes understanding why I have an emotion is more baffling than the emotion itself. I’ve come to know the feeling of being overwhelmed quite well. My thoughts become muddled. I start having problems deciding about unrelated issues as well as the ones pertaining to the matter at hand. I know I must just stop what I’m doing and try to make my mind a blank. I must step away from whatever it is that is causing the feeling of spoil to surge through my veins.

I can’t even peek at those stories anymore, at least for a long while. I went back to reading my classics, Jane Austin and Charles Dickens. I was hoping to get inspiration from these two authors. Believe it or not, it is helping.

A few of weeks ago, February ninth, I posted an article about changing what or where I write. It was after writing that post I went to Amazon to find some more classics to read. So many of they are completely free there if I get the eBook version. There isn’t any shipping or handling fee either.

Reading about history in a fictitious form has me brainstorming about an idea for a story where the setting is in the past someplace. The concepts I’m coming up with are arduous and elaborate for the characters. Well, so far they seem to be, anyway. They’re more mixed than anything I’ve written before.

Who would have envisioned me going for something more entangled, more involved? Certainly not me. Yet, it just seems to be the appropriate path to take right now.

Have you ever gone for the path covered with debris, sharp turns, and detours?

“Good writing is good writing. In many ways, it’s the audience and their expectations that define a genre. A reader of literary fiction expects the writing to illuminate the human condition, some aspect of our world and our role in it. A reader of genre fiction likes that, too, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the story.” ― Rosemary Clement-Moore