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The Writer's Project Notebook

Ok. The WPN has 8 basic components. What works for me will not work for some, and so my hope is that you'll be able to take those things you find useful and be able to integrate them into your writing system. Part of the problem many creative writers have is the fear that if the work becomes to scripted or plotted, that it will lose its zing. I've found the opposite to be true--if I'm organized, I'm not worried about the process and it frees up my brain for even MORE CREATIVITY! Which is what we all want, right? Well, to some extent. Too much of a good thing can still be too much. :-)

I'll list the 8 parts here, and then link to individual blog posts discussing each in more detail.

1. Brainstorm
    This is, quite possibly, the most important part for me. Everything stems from these pages.

2. ICAs
     Individual Character Assessments. From these pages, I get to know my characters in depth.

3. Outline
     The outline is, for me, a bullet-point list of everything that needs to happen in the story from beginning to end. "But that's impossible for me!" you say, because you're a pantser. No problem, because the outline as I use it is a fluid document that bends and changes and sometimes veers off course altogether, and it really is ok. The outline can always be either redirected or changed.

4. Scene Maps/Summaries
     This tool has two components, and my Scene pages take up the bulk of the room in my notebook, because each scene gets its own page. The page begins as a map where I state my goal for the scene and then list the things I feel should happen in the scene. I usually do this in pencil. Then as I draft, I use the map as a guide--sometimes I stick to it, sometimes I use only a fraction of the things on the list because a crazy conversation has developed between the characters.
     Once the scene is written, I take a look at the map. Has it changed? Did I use everything? Do I need to erase some things and jot them down for later? The Scene Map now becomes a Scene Summary. I add anything I may have just drafted that wasn't originally part of the plan and I now have a tidy little summary I can reference later when I'm wondering where it was the house blew up, or when the hero and heroine shared their first kiss.
     These pages also have a couple quick stats at the top for my reference: the chapter number, the scene number, the scene word count, the page number spread, and the Point of View character. Even if I go back and add or delete things later and my page numbers are no longer exactly accurate, it gives me a ballpark to work with if I'm searching for something in the manuscript.

5. Tracking Sheet
     This page is basically a spreadsheet I write by hand with some very brief stats: chapter, page numbers, word count, PoV character and the setting. It tells me at a glance where the bulk of my story is taking place and in whose PoV I've been writing. It also helps me keep chapter length consistent. I get crazy about my chapters--I like them all within a certain word count/page count and this caters to that...craziness.

6. Running Edit
     This can be one of the hardest tools to use, in my opinion, but in terms of efficiently getting that first draft out of the head and down on paper, it's one of the most crucial. Let's say Mary is an attorney, but by page 75 I decide she should be a doctor instead. (Don't ask me why, and here's hoping I haven't built my entire plot in a courtroom.) I turn to my handy-dandy Running Edit section, and I write myself this note: "Make Mary a doctor before page 75." And here's the hard part--I write the rest of the story from page 75 forward as though Mary is a doctor and has been one all along! I know! I'm just picky enough that this can drive me nuts if I let it. So I don't let it. Usually.

7. Research Questions
    This is also a handy tool to have if your aim is to keep your forward momentum from stalling. So your character is in Rome and you want to know how long that particular statue has been in that particular place. Great idea--look it up RIGHT NOW! Next thing you know, you're looking at pics of Europe on Pinterest and crying because it reminds you of the trip your grandparents took there for their 50th anniversary and grandma always did love you more than the other grandkids. And while you're thinking about Grandma, it might be a good idea to look up the meaning of her name, Brunhilda, because you're thinking of using it for a secondary character but you want to know what it means...
     We've all done this. Don't even pretend otherwise! SO. When you're writing about that statue in Rome and you need to know when it was sculpted, you flip to your Research section in your notebook and you write yourself a note that you need to google it when you have some down time or when you're done drafting the book altogether. You will also need to look up the meaning of the name, Brunhilda.

8. Sources
     So you publish your book with XYZ Publishing or you put it on Kindle and people are reading it! But you get an email from Grumpy Gus who insists that the statue in Rome to which you make reference was NOT sculpted when you said it was. Now, because you took two seconds to jot down the website addy in your Sources section of your notebook, you have the reference to send to Mr. Gus. And because everything on the internet is true, you will have proven him wrong.
     Truly, it takes very little time to notate a source and you'll be so glad you did when you're wondering where that website was, or who that author was, or where you read that tidbit about the volcano...

This is the notebook in a nutshell. As I mentioned before, I'll dedicate a longer blog post to each topic and welcome any comments you may have about this fun and painful thing called writing we do!

I have an Etsy shop I'll link to here that may also be of interest to you if you're wanting an easy way to print yourself a WPN--I've done all the work for you and created a PDF file you can download for immediate use if you're interested. If you're a man, the snazzy colors might be a bit off-putting, in which case you might consider printing it in grayscale. Or offering it to your lady friends in your critique group. :-) (And I beg your forgiveness in advance for lumping you insensitively into a stereotype that may be entirely inaccurate.)


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