Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A Cry For Help

by Robison Wells

As you may have heard, I graduated with my MBA last week. Here's a picture of me in my robes and such.

And here is me wearing the hood. You're not actually supposed to wear the hood, because it makes you look like a warlock from a B movie.

Anyway, I am still on the job hunt, and if you know of any good jobs, marketing or general management, shoot them my way. (However: I'm not interested in your MLM.)

So, my days of late have been spent looking for jobs and pounding the pavement and writing cover letters and a whole lot of other unpleasantness. The nice aspect of unemployment is that I've had some more time to write. And I've discovered something: I've forgotten how to write a book.

My last book came out in 2006, which means that I finished writing it in 2005. During school, I told my publisher that I was going to take a two-year hiatus to focus on studying. So, now it's been four years since I actually typed "The End" on the last page of something, and I'm dying.

I can still write, I guess. My chapters aren't terrible. But I can't plot. I can't get the character arcs right. The past two years have been filled with writing academic non-fiction, with the longest paper being somewhere around thirty pages. That's a far cry from a novel.

Yesterday I went over to my brother's office and we brainstormed my current book, because for the life of me I couldn't get an ending. After three hours of brainstorming, we came to the realization: I have no idea what I want to write. I'm plugging away on an idea that I got four years ago, but for want of something better it's gone through a dozen different incarnations. Sometimes the scale is small, sometime's it's world-wide. Sometimes it's first-person, sometimes it's third. Sometimes the main character is a boy, sometimes it's a girl. The moral of the story: I have no idea what I want to write.

So, to all you writers out there, leave a comment and explain how you plot a book. Yes, this is something I already know, but I need some fresh ideas. (Or a kick in the butt. One or the other.)


At 5/05/2009 4:03 PM, Anonymous ally condie said...

Rob, I am the world's worst plotter. I start with an idea and then I go from there. I never know where it will end up when I start. Does that help? I also usually write scenes instead of chapters and then link them together eventually. Plotting makes me itchy.

Congrats again on graduating!

At 5/05/2009 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anna said...

I am the same way. I just think of a really basic plot line, write up scenes, get new ideas, write more scenes, change some previous scenes, and eventually piece them together.

I do find that if I write to music that the ideas flow better. Usually I have a CD or songs in mind when writing a novel, and then listen to it while I write.

At 5/05/2009 4:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So write them all. First person. Third person. Second person (call me, I'll let you in on that technical secret, 1-800-editorialactivist). Write the world-wide journey and the small scale jail cell breakout. Do the boy story, the girl story, the eunich story, and the one I want to read most--the butt kicking story.

There's got to be at least ten novels in there. Write them all. Historical. Suspence. Romance. General fiction. Mystery. Fantasy. Speculative. And you may even want to try the psychoformative. It an all-the-rage new genre at Random House. Call me at my other number. 1-800-unpublished. I'll explain.

I'll share more insighths if you promise to post right here on the frog blog your recent post-MBA attempt and let us all have a crack at editing. Who knows? Once we get a look at your work, the brain-storming will begin. Talk about fun-o-rama!

You rock Rob.

At 5/05/2009 5:22 PM, Blogger Micah Bruner said...

Be at my house this friday evening and I'll provide you with a solid kick in the butt. Bring your family - we'll have dinner!

At 5/05/2009 6:44 PM, Blogger Matthew Buckley said...

I use a time machine. I go into the future and steal my books (or other people's books), and then bring them back and submit them.

Worked OK so far.

At 5/05/2009 8:02 PM, Blogger Traci Hunter Abramson said...

Let's see, how to plot a novel. Start by sitting down at the computer. Stare at said computer for untold amounts of time. Stop and get a snack. Return to computer. Get kids a snack. Return to computer. Then stop thinking and start typing. Usually works for me.

At 5/05/2009 8:16 PM, Blogger lachish said...

There are some fun random plot generators on the internet. Did you try those? Or better yet, make sure you have a pen and paper by your bed. Tell yourself you are not going to open your eyes when you wake up, but you are going to remember your dream. When you wake up, review your dream(s) mentally, then hurry up and write it down (you can open your eyes to write, unless you are super talented). OR . . . you could always go and steal Matthew's time machine. That is a plot in itself, no?

At 5/05/2009 10:52 PM, Blogger Kimberly said...

It really does sound like you're starting from scratch, because what you're describing is exactly what I (a complete newbie) have been going through this last year or so.

I've found that (other than the Storymaker's conference) the most helpful tool has been asking myself questions. Even just simple ones like, what sort of main character do you enjoy reading about? What do you want people to get out of reading your book (pure entertainment, some moralistic commentary, a strong desire to nibble cheese)?

Batting ideas around with someone who truly enjoys reading books in the genre I plan to write in has also been invaluable. She's been able to compare my ideas to those of books already on the market, or let me know when something is actually (gasp) unique. I know I'm on track when she starts getting excited to know what happens next, and that I'm off it when she doesn't contact me for days after our last brainstorming session.

Annette wrote a great post awhile back at Writing on the Wall about the difference between outlining and letting your story grow organically, as it were. Like her, I'm finding that a combo of the two really works. I sit down and just write for awhile, see what I have, and plan from there. Sometimes, the ideas I've planned don't come to fruition because something better happens on its own, or the characters have a better handle on the plot than I do. Being flexible with your outline can bring in huge rewards, I find.

Really though, I'm just a newbie babbling on here, hoping against hope that I'm actually learning something through all the rewrites. Good luck!

At 5/06/2009 1:50 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Drat!! You see, I just started an MLM with hooded warlocks from B-movies,and I totally had you in mind.

At 5/06/2009 2:51 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Sorry, I am no help. The one book that I actually did plot, I ended up cutting 100 pages, writing 200 more, then cutting another 100. All of my other books are based on real-life events, so the skeleton is already there. Other than that, to avoid writers block, I just say to myself, "What's the opposite thing the readers will expect?" and write that.

At 5/06/2009 3:28 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard usually works.

Thanks for satisfying my curiosity about whether hoods are wearable or not.

At 5/06/2009 4:53 PM, Blogger Allison Hill said...

Rob, as your loving sister, I would LOVE to help you out in any way I can, so hop on a plane and I will kick your butt from here to Cleveland. That's how nice I am!

At 5/06/2009 6:21 PM, Blogger pwells said...

Have you tried following Holly around for a couple of hours? She can put more stories together than anyone I know.

At 5/13/2009 8:42 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

My wife just finished a mainstream bestseller that had chapters written from 1st, 2nd and 3rd person points of view.

She emphatically would not recommend the book (gave up about 100 pages in and skimmed the rest) so I won't explicitly mention it here. (Hint: titular word follows "FAST AND")

Good luck with the plotting, I'm really poor at that aspect, and many others. =)


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