How to Strengthen your Writing by Not Writing

Nov 12, 2010

The last week has been very "meh" around my neck of the woods. A cold plus a bad back made sure that all writing went out the window. However, I still managed to make some good progress on my third draft of Devs.


Wait, no writing but still progress? How does that work? Well, I spent the week redefining all the background "things."

Before I ever start writing a draft, I do basic character sketches, world-building, and a (very) loose outline. By the time I'm done with the first draft, those are all woefully out of date. I already redefined my outline before I started the second draft of Devs, but my world-building and characters needed a ton of work. I did some more research (which I love) to build up and add details to my world, re-sketched my characters (oh, how I LOVE the clarity the 3-2-5 method brings!), and then, did something totally cool that I've never done before.

I outlined each of my plotlines individually.

Now, my overall outline is fairly complete at this point. Still, I knew my plot needed tightening--one subplot managed to fall entirely by the wayside in my second draft. So I pulled out each storyline and did a mini-outline for it, detailing what happened in which chapters. And it was amazing.

In the process of looking individually at all my plots and subplots, I found the weak spots. I picked out where one needed more conflict, where another completely fell off the map, and where two of them came together, sort of mirroring each other. All of you mega-outliners are probably laughing and saying, "how can you NOT do that?" But it sure was a revelation to me!

Even though I did little to no actual writing this week, my wip has gotten stronger. And I can't wait to actually write all those little changes in.

So, my friends, what do you do to strengthen your story when you're not actually writing? What specific behind-the-scenes tricks or tips can you share that you've found create a stronger story?

14 comments:

Colene Murphy said...

Neat process! Nice to know a little of how you do what you do!

Meredith said...

I've never tried outlining the subplots, but I definitely need to! Your process sounds great :)

Milo James Fowler said...

As a recovering "pantser," I usually go back and flesh out the subplots once they start cropping up -- once the minor characters I assumed would remain MINOR characters have asserted themselves into major roles. But I take care of it after the WiP's first draft is complete (as such). Don't want to constipate my flow until then.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Kind of how I spent the last few weeks...planning and plotting. I cleared everything out for next week so I can sit down and WRITE.

Abby Minard said...

What a great idea! I kind of do that too- I don't outline too much, but I always have to write down explanations and background stories so I don't get confused, and who knows what info at what time, a timeline for how many days have passed, a list of minor character names so I don't forget...things like that. I had to go back the other day while writing my climax and make sure I wasn't revealing something I had already revealed.

Melissa said...

This actually sounds like a brilliant idea. I need to write things down to strengthen it or something... I never write anything down. It's all in my head. I hope it still works but if it doesn't I might need to do this too!

alexia said...

What an excellent post! I read your 3-2-5 method too, and that's good stuff. I do love Brandon Sanderson.

Madeleine said...

Yes the groundwork is soooo important. Thanks for another great light bulb moment, as I'm beginning to realise it too. Hope your back and cold are much better. My neck has been playing up because I've not been using my timer, exercising or adjusting my back support properly, so I'm back to all those things now. :O)

Medeia Sharif said...

When I'm drafting I get a niggling feeling that my story needs more. I continue to write, while at the same time thinking about weak points. That's when I introduce more conflict, subplots, and minor characters to give extra oomph to the story.

M Pax said...

My week has been horrendous. I've gotten nothing done, but won't worry about it.

But when I feel the story is missing something, I will keep thinking about it. Usually a spark of inspiration lights eventually.

Elana Johnson said...

I stew and stew and stew. Sometimes I'll get a flash of what could happen or a motivation and that's huge forward progress for me. And dude, I'm so checking out the 3-2-5 method!

Julie Musil said...

I've never heard of the 3-2-5 method. I'm checking it out!

When I'm not actually writing, I'm almost always thinking about the story. Where it can go from here, what character traits I can add, etc. Plus, reading of course!

tahlianewland.com said...

I do that when the plots are getting lost or messy. I find that ideas for improving a ms comes to me at all sorts of odd times. Actually making the changes is the harder part.

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Claire Dawn said...

For this latest WIP, I bout a notebook for each of the major characters, and wrote a bunch of random questions. Then I answered them.

The MC is a polar opposite of me. Yet I feel like I write her better than the first two MC's who were pretty much me with a different hairstyle.

Maybe someday I'll try this with plot. lol.

 
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