When I’m freewriting, I tend to write way more dialogue than action. My first drafts often read like screenplays. Sometimes, I won’t even put tags that explain who is talking, and I’ll have to scroll back through the scene weeks later desperately trying to remember who was who.
Take this chunk of dialogue:
“I said no one was supposed to go in there.”
“I thought you meant, you know, other people. I didn’t think you meant me.”
“I always mean you. I don’t care what other people do. I care—”
“Just — don’t do it again, okay? It’s dangerous.”
It’s not bad, is it? But we have no idea who is speaking, where they are, or what’s going on. So let’s see if we can beef it up a little bit…
A quick post for you this Monday, Happy Writers! NaNoWriMo is imminent, and I’m about to launch into an all-day flurry of schoolwork to try to get everything done so I have some nice, lengthy, juicy writing days later in the week. (If you would like to follow my noveling progress, follow me on NaNoWriMo.org!)
Today, I want to talk about scenework. Novels are broken up into distinct chunks — among these, acts, chapters, scenes, paragraphs, and sentences. Scenes are some of the most important elements of a novel — if your individual scenes aren’t engaging, a reader is never going to appreciate the bigger picture. You want scenes that reveal your characters and move the story forward — scenes that build like bricks to construct the big, beautiful mansion (or townhouse, or skyscraper, or complicated subway system) your book will eventually be.
So, what do you do when you can tell a scene isn’t working?
A confession: I really like scrolling through writing prompts. I find it fascinating and entertaining to read these little one or two-sentence snippets of story starters, and I’m always hoping I’ll find one that sparks some brilliant, intoxicating surge of creativity, some whirlwind of production from which I’ll emerge with a fully written first draft of something all story-shaped and impressive.
A second confession: This never actually happens.
I like looking at writing prompts. But I’ll be the first to admit that, until recently, I had no real idea how to turn a writing prompt into an actual story.
How do you go from a prompt like Someone at a grocery store runs into a problem and actually make a story out of it? How do you take A ghost haunts a classroom or a dog that can talk joins local politics or a man wakes up to a tattoo he’s never had before — a set of numbers counting down and actually turn it into a full-blown story?
It’s actually really difficult to take someone else’s idea and make it your own! Most of my stories crop up entirely in my own head, so taking inspiration from an outside source can be befuddling and unfamiliar!
Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’ve been intrigued by a writing prompt but had no idea what to do next with it. Or maybe you have an assignment for a creative writing class and have no idea how to start. Never fear! I’ve compiled some tips and tricks that should help you turn those prompts into full-blown projects.
You don’t throw a shirt down on the ironing board all wadded up and just press your hot iron overtop it.
I mean, maybe you do, if your intention is to make some kind of shirt sandwich and pressing the wrinkles deeper into the fabric locks in the flavor or whatever.
But usually, you lay the shirt flat. You make sure the collar isn’t folded up, and you smooth down the sleeves. Then you get to ironing. Giving yourself that minute to prepare the canvas, so to speak, makes the work easier and promises you a better outcome.
Hello, hello, Happy Writers! Today, we’re talking about Zero Drafts. Now, we’ve all heard of First Drafts: the very first incarnations of the stories we tell. They’re messy, they’re earnest, and they very, very often go unfinished, as they’re very often abandoned. Now, why is that? Sometimes, admittedly, stories just don’t work, and the writer loses their motivation to keep clacking away at the keyboard. But, oftentimes, the writer is simply overwhelmed — lost and frustrated and not sure what the story is that they’re telling.
Often, this is because the writer needed a Zero Draft. A Zero Draft is the percolation stage. It’s the answer to the question: how do I get all of the ideas in my head into something story-shaped? A Zero Draft is and should be the first step to writing a novel.
So, this post basically answers two questions: What is a Zero Draft? which, in turn, answers the question:
I have a story for a novel in my head and I’m not sure how to write it down. What do I do??