Sitting across from me at the kitchen table, five-year old Annalisa gently placed her hand on my forehead and pushed it away from my search for the Thomas Kinkade puzzle piece. “Nana, please, you are in my thinking space.” Quick, alert and gifted with spatial intelligence, Annalisa was assembling the only slightly contrasting sky at a two or three-to one pace while I struggled to put the chimney of the garden cottage together. Hovering over the puzzle, I had encroached on her “thinking space.”
I love the concept of a “thinking space”. Out of that space come the thoughts that lead to action. No action occurs that one doesn’t first see themselves doing it. Like writing–one must see herself writing before she will do so. Out of the thinking space come the ideas that produce the story.
Louis L ’Amour was often asked “Where do you get your ideas?” He replied, “If a person does not have ideas, he had better not even think of becoming a writer. But ideas are everywhere. There are enough in the daily newspaper to keep us writing for years. Ideas are all about us, in the people we meet, the way we live, the way we travel, and how we think about people. It’s important that we are writing about people. Ideas are important only as they affect people. And we are writing about emotion. A few people reason, but all people feel.” Education of a Wandering Man, Bantam Books, 1989, p. 85.
Ideas are born in our thinking space. For six years I traveled the panhandle of Texas as an educational consultant with Region XVI Education Service Center in Amarillo. The panhandle is a little less than 26,000 square miles so it was not unusual to travel 700 miles a week going to various rural schools. Ideas that began during that travel time were often not completed when I arrived in the driveway of my home, so I would remain in my car until the ideas solidified–pondering in my thinking space until one of the kids interrupted my reverie with, “MOM, I’m hungry!” Oh, well, to my thinking space in the kitchen!
Ideas come and go even as we sleep. Begin to collect them in a journal designated just for that purpose. What ideas have had you just today?
From time to time I have recommended various books on writing, and shared the wisdom of some of the great writers. I don’t know or pretend to pass judgment on the wisdom or fame of Aaron Allston, but I can say that his new book on plotting is worth the money and the time to read. It includes basics on plotting for the beginning writer and insight into solving plotting problems for the seasoned writer.
Allston is the son of a local journalist, Tom Allston, who wrote for the Pampa newspaper as well as the Amarillo Globe-News. I hope you like the book.
Aaron Allston Releases Plotting: A Novelist‘s Workout Guide
New York Times bestselling novelist Aaron Allston has released his first full-length nonfiction work in e-book form.
Plotting: A Novelist’s Workout Guide describes the craft of plotting novels. In the book, Allston provides methods for creating scenes, determining the meaning and functions of story events, shaping plots and sub-plots, developing character arcs and themes, fixing plot problems, and writing outlines. Also included are numerous writing exercises and Blood Kin, a complete outline for a novel, demonstrating the plotting process from initial concept to finished proposal.
Title: Plotting: A Novelist’s Workout Guide
Price: &9.99 USD
Publisher: ArcherRat Publishing (www.archerrat.com)
Length: 120,000 words
Central Texas native Aaron Allston, who has 25 years’ professional experience as a fiction writer, is best known for his work in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. His bibliography includes 22 novels and numerous pieces of short fiction released by traditional publishers such as Del Rey Books, Baen Books, Tor Books, and Bantam Books, and digital publishers including WordFire Press. ArcherRat Publishing, publisher of Plotting: A Novelist’s Workout Guide, is Allston’s digital self-publishing line.
With colleague Michael A. Stackpole, Allston has for years taught the Inner Circle Writers’ Seminars at venues across the United States. Their next teaching appearance, in association with acclaimed science fiction author Timothy Zahn, will be as guest lecturers at Arizona State University.
Plotting: A Novelist’s Workout Guide is available from:
For additional information, please e-mail Aaron Allston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check this book out if you like. List some of the books you’ve already read on the subject of plotting that have helped you solve your plotting troubles.
Recently, I saw a great post on one of my favorite websites, Writer Unboxed, by Barbara O’Neal titled, The 20 Minute Win. In the article, O’Neal describes how she manages to stay on task with her writing. She focuses on her work each day as soon as she can possibly get to it by creating a 20-minute window to write. She got the idea from the late Ray Bradbury who said, “A writer should begin writing before he lets the world in.”
When O’Neal sits down for her 20-minute session, she sets the timer and writes whatever comes up. Sometimes, it’s a blog. Sometimes, it’s a scene that comes later in her book. Sometimes, she even writes in a journal. The point is, she writes uninterrupted for 20 minutes for the sole purpose of getting the juices flowing.
This accomplishes two major things. First, it warms up her writing muscles and gets her into her Writing Work Room. Second, it reminds her how little time it takes to actually put words on a page if she will just show up to do it.
I decided to try it for myself. The only modification I made was to shorten the sessions to 15 minutes. I wrote the first piece in the allotted time. I started with this sentence: “Am I the only one who thinks the term baby bump is obnoxious and unflattering?” When the timer sounded, I checked the word count. Three hundred twenty-nine words. About baby bumps. I agree with Barbara. It gets the writing juices flowing. Can I sustain the pace of 1,316 words per hour all day – every day – when working on my latest novel? Probably not, but that’s not the point. The point is if I will just show up to write and get to it, I can actually produce words on the page.
What then shall I do with this newfound way to exercise my writing muscles and get the juices flowing? Blog of course. In the very near future, I will post these 15-minute writing exercises on my new blog. After spending 15 minutes writing with no internal editing, I go back and spend a few minutes cleaning up the prose. Then, since I’m in the writing groove, I find it easier to get to work on my latest project. I have a short story with a February 1 deadline and then it’s back to revision hell with my first novel. It’s a good thing I have writing to occupy my time. Otherwise, I might end up watching reality TV. Oh, wait, if I watch reality TV, I’ll have something to blog about!
Try Barbara O’Neal’s 20 Minute Win http://writerunboxed.com/2012/10/24/the-20-minute-win/ and see if it doesn’t get your creative juices flowing.
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