Writer in Motion Week 0: My Writing Process and Outline

I jumped around several plots and genres when trying to come up with a first draft. A post-apocalyptic world in which survivors are trying to make their way to a distant safe house. A sci-fi fantasy in which special secret agents are sent to apprehend a dangerous individual hiding out. A contemporary story in which the MC reflects on their childhood and coming home after a long estrangement. The MC following instructions to some remote cabin to fulfill the dying wish of somebody close to them. A roadtrip. A bedtime story. Digging up a time capsule.

The thing is, I’m great at coming up with ideas. I have half a dozen floating through my mind at any moment. Some I know I’ll never get to I’ve added to the Plot Exchange (please feel free to use or leave your own plots) for other writers. However I have three basic requirements before I actually begin writing:

  1. It has to Have an Ending

One thing I’ve learned about my writing process over the years is that it’s very similar to taking a road trip. Before I get into my car I have to know where I’m going, and use a GPS to get me there. My bags are packed with whatever I might need, and while pit stops are allowed, I will try my best to stick with the best route available. For writing, I need an end goal to work towards, a rough outline, and resources such as research and background on the world and characters to help me meet the goal. I’m free to come up with random bits of character insight or side plots along the way, as long as it helps me reach the ending.

All those ideas listed at the beginning? Not an ending among them. The one I ended up choosing? Had the ending and the rest of the story fell into place.

2. It has to Have a Message/Theme Setting it Apart

Sometimes my story ideas can be very similar to one another. So I ask myself, what makes this one unique? What point am I hoping to accomplish or convey to readers? What lesson could be learned by it? Is there some overarching theme tying everything together?

Usually in the process of answering those questions, I’ll get my lightbulb moment, the instant where everything clicks, the story falls into place, and I have my motivation for writing it down. My moment for this one which cemented it as THE IDEA was one word: fireflies.

3. It has to Have Heart

Whether they’re heroes or villains I have to connect and be able to care about the characters and the story. If I don’t care, how can I expect readers to care about what happens to them, and share in their joys and sorrows? Giving characters heart changes them from shapeless bland blobs to actual people I can be emotionally invested in. It helps me with understanding how they think, their motivations, and desires. Giving the story heart transforms mere words on a page (or screen) to something relatable, that sticks with myself and readers.

I give the characters and story heart by incorporating some bit of myself or somebody I closely know. It can be a personality type, strange quirk, personal experience that shaped me, a hope or dream, and even a fear or obstacle that had to be overcome. It can be one tiny detail, several, or a huge part of my life.

In this case, the heart comes from the times when I was right on the cusp of full adulthood. Afraid of what was to come, of losing touch with my childhood friends, and trying my best to cling tightly onto my childhood one last time.

And that wraps up the brief insight into the beginning of my writing process. Below is the result, my rough outline which includes placeholders and and notes. Expect the first draft in the next few days.

Outline:

Two MCs are traveling in car, arguing over directions. “You don’t know where you’re going. Want me to use Google?” “Relax, it’s fine.” “But–” “Like I said fine. There’s the turn.” “What turn? All I see is a tree.” “It’s behind the tree.” “Behind the tree, how can it be behind– oh, it’s behind the tree.”

Car turns off onto gravel dusty road, loud, will need a wash later on. Wild turkey crosses path. Flying up and down the hills, one mentions speed, but other is unconcerned. MC1 is super obsessive (passenger) and has packed several bags of stuff, MC2 carries. Along the way they discuss plans for fall, reminiscence about old days, childhood and memories at cabin. Reveals it’s been years since last visit.

Finally reach top of hill and discovers nothing. MC1 freaks out, it has to be here. MC2 finds signs but reveals it’s long gone, was more like a crumbling shack back in the day, not surprised it’s not around. Cabin belongs to MC2’s family and they built a new one, and MC1 didn’t realize that meant tearing down the old one. MC1 splutters, this isn’t right, we were supposed to do XYZ. MC2 insists everything is fine (sidenote: I use that word a lot) and it doesn’t have to be the same. MC1 is still bothered, and MC2 asks what’s wrong. MC1 reveals worry over losing touch once the summer ends, going separate ways with college, barely spending any time together like they used to, afraid they’re going to drift away forever and just wanted one last night like when they were kids.

MC2 admits same fears, but reassures MC1. Things will change, everything changes, but change can be good. Like now, without parents or siblings can do stuff on their own. Make promise no matter how crazy things may get, will set aside one weekend each summer to catch up at cabin or somewhere else. They never really liked the outdoors anyway, could go to a beach or the city. MC1 is relieved, and ends on hopeful note.

Notes:

FIREFLIES! Work in catching fireflies in jar as children to capturing memories and moments, but MC2 points out they always released them otherwise they’d die, but they’d always be back the next year. Could work as title. The Firefly’s Journey. Like Fireflies. Summer Fireflies. Pinpricks of Light. Pinpricks of Magic. Summer Magic. Capturing Magic. Releasing Magic. The Magic Jar. Flickering Summer Magic. Fleeting Summer Magic. Those Summer Nights. Summertime Magic. Magical Days of Summer.

Names for characters: Rachel (call Ray and Luce for short, ray of light names)

Final thoughts: MCs still need physical descriptions. Can I get this under 1,000 words? First draft I’ll try not to worry about wordcount and address in self-edit.

Next: First Draft

All Writer in Motion posts:

All Writer in Motion posts:

Writer in Motion Post #1: Initial Thoughts on Prompt Reveal

Writer in Motion Post #2: Insight to Writing Process and Outline

Writer in Motion Post #3: First Draft

Writer in Motion Post #4: Self-Edit

Writer in Motion Post #5: CP Edit

Writer in Motion Post #6: Editor Feedback and Final Version

Writer in Motion Post #7: Final Thoughts

Take Two

So… it’s been a while. Not that anybody probably noticed other than spammers. And not just a little while, but a full year in which I haven’t posted anything. Part of which was due to studying for several professional exams, followed by the holidays, and then a family vacation and wedding. Just when I was finally getting ready to back to this blog, COVID-19 struck.

Up until March, COVID seemed like a far away thing. Sure I was aware of it when I flew in February, but it was confined to incoming travelers from Europe and other places so I wasn’t too concerned. Then March came in and things got crazy.

As stay at home and quarantine orders started to roll out, I remember going to the store and waiting 20 minutes in line to check out as people were stocking up on food, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wipes, and more. The atmosphere reminded me of a bad winter storm approaching and everybody panicking and trying to stock up on supplies. It was eerie, and will stick with me. On St. Patrick’s Day, I was sent to work from home and have been doing so ever since.

The weeks that followed I didn’t have much interest or passion for writing. I was still on edge and nervous. Every time I coughed I wondered if it was a symptom of something else. Every time I heard new numbers on the news, I thought of my dad who has to take medication to live, but lowers his immune system, putting him at risk. I even started trying to cut back my snacking just in case there was a food shortage.

Then George Floyd was killed and Black Lives Matter exploded and all I could do was watch as history continued to unfold. My WIP seemed so insignificant to the world around me. Make no mistake, 2020 will go down in history as a year of change and be studied and analyzed for decades to come.

In the meantime I worked on creating a craft/sewing space in a spare bedroom, got addicted to Animal Crossing New Horizons, and started on my Master’s. Gradually I adjusted to the new normal and got my writing groove back. I joined Camp RevPit (go hedgehogs!) and got an editor spot for Writer In Motion. I also started the Plot Exchange which is a Google spreadsheet full of plot ideas for writers and has a form allowing writers to submit any plots they don’t have the background, time, etc. to write.

For the remainder of this year, I want this blog to focus on three areas important to me: writing, engineering, and sewing/quilting. Each one has a different goal:

Writing: Gear up and complete Writer In Motion.

Engineering: Post PE studying guide.

Sewing/Quilting: Blog as I make my mom’s quilt Christmas present.

And finish editing my WIP so I can move onto betas and writing contests in the spring. That’s it for now. May the remaining months of 2020 be better than the rest, and stay safe.

Kay S. Beckett