A tool is something that aids our process.
- Time to Plan
Preparing ourselves to write is a wise place to start, otherwise our progress (or not) might reflect Stephen Leacock’s Lord Ronald (from Gertrude the Governess) who “rode madly off in all directions.” What is our goal? How do we plan to achieve that goal (break it down into manageable pieces)? You’ve heard this before, but it’s worth repeating.
- Time to Think
As writers, we need time to imagine, explore our thoughts, mull over ideas. This is the brainstorming process, or mind-mapping, or whatever we choose to call it. Some writers think about a story for years, then sit down and write it. Some of us have the initial ideas or characters or setting in our minds, but the story only comes into its own once the words hit the page. Whether we think in silence or on paper or screen, we need time to analyze our imaginings. Schedule it.
- Time to Write
Whether this is point three or four for you, it’s still an important aspect of our trade. I need something to organize before I can set it to rights. I need to figure out what kind of story I’m writing, and that often only comes once the fingers start tapping keys. If you’d rather organize first, outlining everything down to the chapter, go for it. But eventually, we have to commit this to the characters’ viewpoints and show the story through them.
- Time to Organize
There are many methods of organizing our stories. Here are a few I’ve tried:
* Storyboard – buy a science project board for a couple of dollars. It’s already folded into three parts (Acts I, II, III) and works very well for visual writers who need to see the process. Outline your story, broken into acts, with turning points at the end of each act.
* Index Cards – outline each scene in a few words on an index card. You may include the Goal, Conflict, Outcome questions as part of this exercise. Once all scenes are represented on cards, lay them out on a very long table and arrange them the way they make the most sense. You may also use a different color card for each main character so you can see if there’s a proper balance of points of view.
* Sticky Notes – these can be used on the storyboard using different colors for different characters or storylines.
* Spreadsheets – if you have a mind that loves order and charts, use this form to set out scenes, characters, settings, synopses, etc. You can also employ colors for various areas.
NOTE: There are times when all our best-laid plans go awry. Edie Melson writes a helpful post on Novel Rocket that speaks to this: http://www.novelrocket.com/2015/02/writing-through-chaos.html Well worth reading.
There are charts available so you can record and plan every waking hour, down to fifteen-minute segments. If you’re a driven person, try it. If you’re not, save yourself the stress and allow for more latitude. (I use a couple hours each morning for social media and learning. In the afternoon I work on novel drafts or edits and blogs.) However we use our time, we must remember to live. As author Allen Arnold writes, we can be the biggest threat to our novel if we don’t take time to live a little.