panster

Fighting Self-doubt: What’s your story’s shape? - Post 4

What if getting started is the easy part for you?

For many of us, writing the first few pages is not the problem. Self-doubt has a nasty habit of creeping up on us part way through a writing project.

Virginia Woolfe captured this in her diary.

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning of a new book quiets down after a time and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.
— Virginia Woolfe, A Writer’s Diary, 11 May 1920.

I couldn’t agree more. My hard drive is full of abandoned projects.

A few years back, I decided to take part in NanoWriMo as a way of creating a regular writing habit. NanoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month is an annual writing challenge. People from all over the world commit to completing a 50,000-word novel in month. To ‘win’ NanowriMo, you need to write an average of 1,666 words every day in November.

I got to about 13,000 words before I gave up. I didn’t have trouble writing every day.

The problem was that my novel didn’t have “an impending shape.”

My characters wandered around town and had long conversations in cafes. But they weren’t actually doing anything. I’d made the mistake of starting a story without doing any planning. I’d launched into it with a loose cast of characters and vague idea of theme.

It didn’t take long for me to lose faith in my novel.

You might be a panster, a writer who flies by the seat of your pants. Maybe too much structure brings on writer’s block rather than cures it.

But if you’re a planner like me, outlining your story might be just what you need to stay confident.

A plan doesn’t mean you have to write detailed chapter summaries. And you don’t need to know your character’s favourite breakfast cereal before you start writing. But filling in some of the gaps can definitely help.

My plans vary, depending on what I’m writing. Some days they’re a few bullet points. Other times they’re chunks of text I’ve copied and pasted from a freewriting session. For other projects, I use scene cards. At the moment, I’m experimenting with mind mapping and colouring. I find mixing things up can be an effective way to spark new ideas.

These days I plan everything, even blog posts.

Over to you: Is “an impending shape” important for you? If so, how do you plan your writing projects?