Today we’ll have another installment from guest blogger Cindy Martinusen Coloma. She’s been describing her “Puzzle Method” for the last several days.
I now yield the floor to Cindy:
BLOG 4 -
Week 2, Days 1-3 (7 days max if you want a strong schedule)
Now that you’ve had a week of fun, it’s time to start reigning in some of those ideas. It’s time to make some decisions before I set you free writing once again. BUT while you work on this, be sure to write any portion of the novel that arises from this step.
Step 3: DECISIONS
* What POV (s) – multiple points of view or singular?
* Who is (are) the focal character(s)? Who can best tell this story? More than one? Be creative in seeking the eyes and voice the story will be told through. Remember this may change later, and give yourself room for that change. Note: In Orchid House, I have 3 POVs that are very different from each other: an American woman, a Filipino Communist guerrilla fighter, a pre-teen Filipino boy soldier. So for each scene, I’d ask myself which view did I want the story told from? At times, I wrote it from several viewpoints and then chose who gave the best perspective, or could offer the story the best view. For some of the intense scenes, I wrote from all their POVs, but this can only occur if you keep the story progressing as well. (But now I’m getting into different writing territory).
* What tense do you want to use? (In my novel The Salt Garden, I wrote 3 POVs with 2 of those in PRESENT tense and one was from a memoir so it was PAST tense. I loved how it turned out, though it was initially a writing experiment that I wasn’t sure would work.)
* What is your realistic schedule for this book? Set it up and get accountability from someone who will be tough on you or pay for a mentor/coach (I recommend www.CoachingTheWriter.com or I do this as well www.method3AM.com ). Do whatever it takes to make yourself write! When you fail, try again.
Note: All through this, KEEP WRITING and allow yourself to play with the story, the characters, and to think outside what is normal in writing and normal for your writing. So see, you still get to have fun here. The discipline is coming!
Randy sez: Thanks, Cindy! I’d like to respond to a few comments from today:
Christophe described his problems with both the Seat-of-the-Pants approach and the Snowflake and then concluded:
So I’m kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. The more I read about this puzzle method, the more I get the impression that it’s the method I’ve been using all along (just didn’t know it), but my story wasn’t up to par. So what do I go with?
Is there such a thing as a mix between Snowflake and Puzzle? A Puzzleflake? Or a Snowpuzzle? The two methods are so much the opposite of each other, I can hardly imagine such a thing to exist.
Randy sez: I would go with the Puzzleflake, Christophe. My hunch is that you need freedom first, then discipline later. So start with the Puzzle, let it run until you start losing steam, and then do a few steps of the Snowflake (but not the whole thing). You do not want to chew all the sugar out of the gum. Different people have different levels of tolerance for structure. The Snowflake is less structure than many writers use (those who outline the whole thing six times before ever writing a word). But it is still more structure than many writers need. Use only as much as you can tolerate! Cate left a comment right after yours that shows how she solves the problem by Puzzling first, then Snowflaking a bit.
I’m trying an experiment today by taking the different parts of a scene: description, involuntary reactions, dialog, internal monologue and nonverbal communication and write these each separately then go back and layer them.
Randy sez: It sounds like you’ve been reading Margie Lawson’s course on Creating Character Emotions, right? Tell us how you like it! I’ve never tried your experiment, but it sounds interesting. I’m linear enough that I want to just unfold the whole scene in one shot, but I’ll bet there are people who would love your approach.
I generally use the snowflake method to map out my story. But somewhere along the way, the characters take over and the story deviates (sometimes sharply) from the intended track. I still know the ending, but how do I get there? I tend to vere well of track from the original intent, and sometimes don’t know how to make it back. Any suggestions? Sometimes the only thing I can think of doing is to ignore some of what I’ve written and go back tothe original outline. But this doesn’t feel right to me. Is there a way to use my inspiration and still head in the direction of the outline?
Randy sez: The solution is simple. When the characters start veering the story off track, let them. They have come alive and are doing what characters are supposed to do. When you start feeling out of control, re-do your Snowflake spreadsheet to plot out the new story that is emerging. It won’t take more than a day or two. I do this all the time. My characters always want to change my story, so I never feel like the original story is “the way it should be.” If necessary, I may go back and re-do the one-sentence summary to fit the new story.
We’ll continue tomorrow with Day 5 of Cindy’s Puzzle Method.