I’ll admit it. Writing can be hard! Going from that screaming blank page to a completed manuscript alone is like a giant mountain. And then by the time you add in editing and publication… well, you’ve got yourself a whole range to go through! But let’s get down to the specifics. For me, I’ve been writing since I was very young. Coming up with an idea and planning out how the story is going to go is the easy part. Where I really struggle is in some of the details.
With Amethyst, this was painfully obvious in the first draft. I like to tell people that I’ve mastered bracket writing. If you’re not sure what that is, basically as you’re writing, if you get to a point where you’re stuck, you simply insert a pair of brackets in which you leave a note to yourself about what goes in the brackets and move on in order to keep your flow and your momentum. The brackets can contain anything from a short phrase to an entire section. Most often for me, it’s the section. Bracket writing has a lot of pros. It really does help keep the story going and it helps me get to the finish line a lot faster.
But, I had such a hard time with trying to figure out how to fill in the details that my transitions between scenes were terrible! I mean, really awful. I almost shudder at myself looking back. I would stare at the screen for so long I’d be falling asleep, trying to think of how to get from one point to the next in the story and finally give up and find a way to basically fade out and then fade back in with a brief reference to the passage of time. And that was it!
When I wrote Amethyst, I was still learning a lot. I didn’t realize how jarring and confusing the poor transitioning was for my readers. Nor did I realize how many people it turned off to the book! This was a major flaw, which I had to dive into and really work hard to correct. I was reading everything I could get my hands on about transitions in writing. But, there is a happy ending.
So, I stumbled across something, thanks to Chandler Bolt, that’s both very basic, and yet very brilliant. Something I never would have thought of unless I’d read it in black and white and had a lightbulb moment. Mind-maps!
I’m that writer that’s pretty good about outlining my work in order to give myself a guide through my story. The analogy I often give others that write fiction is: without an outline, you’re like someone lost in an unknown place. You have no map, and you easily get off-course and lost. Before you know it, you’re somewhere you never planned to be and looking back wondering how you got there. However, an outline can only go so far. An outline might be a map, in a sense, but it’s not the one that has all of the tiny rivers, trees, and the name for absolutely everything around you. It needs a little help.
This is where mind-maps come in. If you’re thinking I’m talking about taking a piece of paper, drawing a bubble in the middle, then scribbling a chaos of words and phrases around it and connecting them with lines, you’re thinking right. I took pen to paper and put my computer aside for about 10-15 minutes for every transition, and all of a sudden, ideas were flowing so clearly I couldn’t get them down fast enough. Once I had a paper full of bubbles and lines, all I had to do was structure them to fit into the story and then it was like filling in blanks on a form!
I still very much struggle with filling in the little details for transitions between scenes, but I also wanted to share that thanks to the mind-maps and structuring them into the outline, I’ve gotten better and hope to one day find this isn’t a struggle at all.
Now it’s your turn. What do you struggle with, and have you found a solution?