Premature Story Ejaculation Treatment

You’ve got a great idea for a story and you can’t wait to start writing. I’m here to caution you against spewing out your story too soon. You need to indulge in plenty of foreplay before you’re ready. Okay, enough sexual innuendo. The truth is that no matter how tempting it is to start your first draft, you need to wait until you’re ready. A story needs to mature before you start writing it. Or, at least for me it does. I’m an outliner. I can’t speak for pantsers—people who sit down and write without knowing where their story is going. I need to know. It helps me build layers of depth in the first draft. If you start writing too soon you will quickly run into a wall. You won’t know where to go next. Your characters will thrash around wasting a lot a time until you figure out the next move. When this happens you end up with passive characters—the story happens to them instead of the characters driving the story. When you take time to think about your story you’ll be able to see how the pieces fit together, how you can strengthen themes, add motivation, create nuances. You can add the subtleties up front that often don’t develop until a third or fourth draft. It saves time and you’ll have a stronger story to work with. But this blog is supposed to be about treatment, so the next time you have a great story idea I want you to open a new document and write down your ideas. And then walk away from it. Keep...

Secrets of an Outliner

I promised last week to reveal my secrets on how I outline. This is my process, refined over years (decades, gulp) of writing. It’s what works for me. If you are still struggling to find what works for you, then give it a try. If you are already happy with your process, then read my blog for fun and enjoy another writer’s method of giving birth. (Bring on the spinal for writer’s block!) First, let me put your fears at rest. I don’t use the structured outline form we all learned in grade school with Roman numerals and letters. And since I have a pathological fear of index cards spawned from giving school reports, I don’t use them either. (Why do all my neuroses stem from school?)  I believe in a free-form, organic outline—able to stretch and morph into different shapes while I figure out what I want to do. Basically I just make notes about a story idea until I have enough to start writing. Sounds pretty simple, but it’s actually a lot of work—efficient work, maximizing time work, but still work. Story ideas come from different things. Sometimes an article might spark an idea—adopted teen searches for biological parents. You can play the what if game with that. What if he finds out his father was a rapist? Serial killer? Or a prominent politician running for a high political office? Sometimes an idea comes from an image like a photograph or a dream. I once dreamed of a kid astride a bicycle watching a building burn. I knew  in my heart that he was going to be...

Are You an Innie or an Outie?

I believe there are two types of writers. Innies hold the story inside, letting it dribble out bit by bit with no idea of where it is going (aka pantsers because they write by the seat of their pants). Outies outline the story before they begin and know exactly where they are going (aka as outliners for obvious reasons). I started off as an innie. I think most writers do because usually we don’t have a clue on how to write a book. We have an idea and a desire. Eventually we  give in to it and set pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, to see what happens—to find out if we have what it takes to tell a story. A compelling story. A story that people can’t put down, that editors beg to publish, and agents fight one another to represent. (I have to have a big imagination. I write science fiction.) I wrote my first novel as an innie, never knowing what was going to happen next. It all finally came together in a climax, however there was a lot of wandering through the story before I got there. I realized early on that if I didn’t want to spend most of my writing time rewriting it would be much quicker if I knew what my plot was before I started. Writing time is premium time for me. I don’t have a lot of it so I needed to maximize what I had. I’ve noticed that people who are committed innies love to rewrite. For them the first draft is a time of discovery. They write to...