Monday, May 2, 2011

Writing With a Purpose

One of the great things about being an author is the infinite number of people who tell you "oh, I'm working on my book, but I can't seem to finish." Another common question is "how do you know when you're at the end of your book?" These are not uncommon obstacles for writers who are working on their first novels. They are avoidable!

The way to avoid working on a never-ending book is to write with a purpose. The same goes for figuring out how to end your book. You need to determine what your story is going to be about. After that you must determine how your book is going to end before you begin to write your book. So let me clarify what I'm saying with some bullet points. I call this the planning stage. This is what your thought process should be before undertaking any book you’re writing:

Planning stage

1. “Gee, it would be a great idea for me to write a book about ________ because it would be great, and damnit, people like me!”
2. “Okay, now I know what I wanna write about, how will my ending go.”
3. “Now, that I got my ending how do I figure out the stuff I wanna write in the book.”

Number 3 in the planning stage is a good question to always ask yourself. The answer to that question is an outline of your book. Think of it as a table of contents without the actual book. Some people like JA Konrath do 40-page outlines of their book complete with descriptions of characters, themes, scenes, etc. because he’s a fucking genius bitching rock star –I’m just Glenn Gamble. Your outline can be as detailed as you want it to be, or not. However you decide to do your outline, you must have the basic components listed below:

My Book I’m Writing

Setting: Where will it take place
Characters: Who are your characters? What are their characteristics?
Plot: Write down what your book is about, and write down a sequence of events that you want to happen.
Conflict: What obstacle must the protagonist/hero overcome? For instance, John likes Sally and its love at first sight between John and Sally, but John can’t have Sally because Sally has an abusive boyfriend whose name is Tiny, and Tiny doesn’t like Sally hanging around pretty boys like John and would crush John like a pop can if he ever caught him talking to Sally. That’s one conflict there. I’ll sprinkle some more conflict for good measure. John also has a speech impediment and always stutters whenever he sees Sally because she’s so pretty and so perfect. I’ll throw in one more because I can’t help myself. John, would like to take Sally to the town fair 6 months from now, but he doesn’t have the money for two tickets because he doesn’t have a job and his parents can’t afford to give him money to go to the fair.
Climax: I call this the Rocky moment. This is the turning point of the story, the high point. This is where the John faces his obstacles and wins. John overcomes his speech impediment by seeing a specialist, and he finds a good-hearted manager/store-owner/etc. who gives him a job and he saves up enough money to buy the tickets. Then, the highest point: John takes boxing classes and beats the snot out of Tiny.
Resolution: The ending. The happy stuff happens here. After John beats Tiny up, he asks Sally out. She says yes, they go to the fair have a great time, then they get a room and conceive John Jr in the throes of lust which leads to an unplanned pregnancy.. the end!
Here’s how I usually start my outline:

-Book Title
- Story is about…

Sequence of events that occur in the story
- Event 1
- Event 2
- Event 3


I even go as far as to number my chapters and put “such and such is going to happen in chapter 1, that’s going to happen in chapter 2, and this is going to occur in chapter 3..” all the way to the ending, then I start writing my book by following my outline and writing the details behind those events, leading up to the events, and the events themselves. It is so important to write an outline so that you can stay on track and so that you won’t find yourself writing a never-ending story.
Now its time to write!

Remember, when you’re writing a book you must:

1) Plan your book
2) Outline your book
3) Write your book

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