On Writing and Outlines #amwriting

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I’ve written 31k words into that holiday novella and… I’ve hit a wall. It’s one of my own making, of course, one called theĀ this-crap-could-be-better wall.

Technically, the book is “done,” as in, I got to the ending which, unfortunately, falls short of that moment in the cinema when you await (with bated breath) the hero’s answer to the question that will make him a slumdog millionaire or the group of eccentric friends driving their friend all across town to the press conference that will reunite him (in front of the world to see) with the celebrity he’d pushed away after she told him in his tiny travel bookshop, “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love me.”

Nope, I don’t got that moment at all.

I’ve kinda run out of steam and hopefully, it’s temporary, giving me enough time to collect my thoughts on the novella because no way is it going into that box set now. And since it’s not, now I can go for as high a word count as I need to tell a fully rounded story. It will also be a lighthearted addition to my Different Kind of Love series.

But first, I need to figure out what scenes to add, what the external plot is going to be (if it needs to be tweaked) and build up the internal plot that I had to discard along the way to fit the original word count requirement of 25k. Man, that’s a tight one, isn’t it?

Anyway, it all sounds so technical, doesn’t it? You’re probably wondering, where’s the spontaneity in the writing? Does everything have to be so planned? Where’s the surprise?

One of the things about writing a romance is that there is no surprise when it comes to the ending. We all know what happens. The couple or people involved if you’re writing about more than two people getting together (hello harems or reverse harems!) ultimately get a happily-ever-after (HEA) or a happy-for-now (HFN) ending. That’s why it’s called a romance. Not a love story which can have a sad ending (she died or he died or they went their separate ways) or an uncertain ending (what the hell just happened? Did they get together or not?). And not a drama which does not have to have a happy ending at all either.

They get a happy ending.

I guess the fun is in the journey to get to that ending.

There are many books out there on how to plot your story and for the last twenty years, I’ve gone by Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey – Mythical Structure for Writers which is based on Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. My copy is frayed at the edges and filled with highlights.

I also have his Audible course with Michael Hauge and listen to it often.

A summary of the journey, the archetypes, and Vogler’s memo can be found here.

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As much as I insist that I’m a “pantser” (someone who writes by the seat of her pants, with no outline), I’m not. That’s because even if I don’t write down my outline, in my head, I have the hero’s journey (above) memorized. I know what happens next. I can watch a Hollywood-produced movie and know they’re going to hit on all those beats. And even if they mix the pieces up like Memento, when the movie is put together in order, you’ll come out with the same journey. So much for calling myself as a pantser when I really wasn’t. I knew the rules well enough to know what to break if I wanted to. I plotted inside my head.

But Vogler and Hauge’s methods aren’t the only ones that I use. There is also Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! which is mainly geared for screenwriters but is so helpful for writers as well. Imagine you and your friends are having dinner at a restaurant and someone goes, “Hey! X movie came out tonight! Why don’t we check it out?”

Everyone pulls out their phones and pulls up the movie poster and someone asks, “What’s it about?”

One of the main questions that Save the Cat answers is What is the movie/book about? Can you answer it in one sentence (logline)? There’s more to it, of course, and it gives the reader s basic outline or beats that happen in a movie.

 

 

Another outline book is Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels (or How To Write Kissing Books) by Gwen Hayes, and this is geared specifically for romance writers. It’s short, sweet, and to the point. It helps you get your romance beats where they should be and have your readers rooting for your lovebirds to live happily ever after in the end.

Knowing basic story structure, no matter whose method whether it’s Vogler, Hauge, Snyder or Hayes’, is the reason I’m stuck at that ending of my book because I know I have to make that moment count and it’s not happening. It’s why I know that I need to beef up Phase 2 of the story (also called Fun and Games in Save the Cat!) to build up the attraction between my characters. Because there’s nothing like insta-love to turn off a reader…

What about you? Are there any books that help you write your stories? What would you recommend?