We’re in the middle of a series of guest blogs with Cindy Martinusen Coloma. Cindy emailed me today with a comment to go before her next blog entry:
I’d love to comment on so many of your great comments. It is quite fascinating how different writers write – I mean we’re already an odd breed of people.
My writer’s group discussed the puzzle and the snowflake last night, and someone said, “No one cares what method you use to create the novel. All that matters is the final manuscript.” And that’s absolutely correct.
Anyway, I’m leaving a day early before being on faculty with Randy at a writer’s conference (we’ll both be there Thursday). We’ll get to chat about this in person, and I’m looking forward to meeting some of you there as well. During the next few days we’ll finish up the last few steps of the Puzzle Method. But let me just say what a pleasure it’s been to be a guest blogger here.
Randy sez: I agree. The cinnamon rolls taste just as good, whether you planned it all out in advance or just flung it together. I’ll now yield the floor to Cindy for her next blog entry:
Hello, I’m your guest blogger, here to help those of you who start an outline and find yourself writing a great sentence, or launching into a scene two-thirds into the book, or creating a dialogue between characters that you don’t quite know yet. We’re calling it the Puzzle Method until a better title presents itself.
Step 4: STORY PIECES CONTINUED
* You get to return to the story fully now! With decisions made, the story and characters will guide the way. So continue writing in pieces, or sections – whatever part of writing works best for you. Always leave room for the story to surprise you. (Once I discovered a great new subplot near the end of the book and the deadline. I had to go back and weave it throughout the entire novel – but it added such tension! Be sure not to ignore these).
* IF you find yourself lost, read over your scenes and scene-pieces and find a place where the creativity flows. If inspiration doesn’t come, start at the beginning. Some days, work really is just that!
* DISCIPLINE HERE – Create daily work count or hour goals. At the start of a project, I might set a goal for 500 words a day or 2500 a week (for the first week or two). By the end of a project, it might be 3,000 words or more a day (that might also be because I’m behind and deadline is coming). Please remember, it’s exactly like starting an exercise program, you work up to it! And it’s better to meet your goal and surpass it, than continually fall short. So be realistic. My usual goal is 2,000 words when other projects and life aren’t at a competing stage with writing. Sometimes other things are more important. Set a 500 word a day or 2500 a week goal during such times and when at the start of a writing project.
* Put HEADINGS at the top of each scene or scene-portion or even an idea. Here are some examples from Orchid House:
MANALO WITH REBEL GROUP MUST GO TO MANILA (Idea)
–one of his men wants to watch Die Hard II, he’s a fan of Bruce Willis. Quotes Die Hard lines
FIRST NIGHT – EMMAN (Sentence with idea of what will happen)
From his place in the tree Emman dropped the yo-yo, let it “sleep,” then flicked his wrist to bring it back.
Emman on guard duty watching Hacienda Esperanza, plays with father’s yo-yo, and knows he’ll do a good job protecting the American woman who has just arrived. He’s angry at Bok who arrives because the younger, annoying tag-along was brave enough to greet the American woman, even touch her hands.
These headings will help you find them again, you know, when you rush out of the shower in your towel and want to add something to that scene with Emman.
* Put aside every bit of obsessive-compulsive disorder and make a writing mess in ONE document (I’ll let you use 3 at the most if you are very good – as in breaking it into three sections though this should actually come later on. But I know some of you super-organizers may not be able to go further if I don’t give some room here).
* REMEMBER THIS: trust yourself, trust the story being created, trust the twists and turns, trust the rabbit trails, and trust “What if?”
Oops, Randy might shut me down with these looong examples. I’ll try to simplify it tomorrow!
Randy sez: Nope, I don’t mind if you go a bit long. Thanks, Cindy! I need to go finish packing tonight because I’m flying out tomorrow. I’ll TRY to blog at the conference, but it can be tricky to do that, because it’s so much fun to be AT a conference that I forget to do my email and blog. Writers are the coolest people on the planet. That’s the real reason I love writing conferences.
Hey! The BEST way to make cinnamon rolls is to slap in any DIE HARD dvd, let’s make it #4, then pull out all the ingredients, heat & measure carefully (because correct temperature and proportions are critical to create the chemical reaction necessary for a darn good roll), then once you have a good, smooth, elastic dough to work with, you can get your bare hands all sticky and really have some fun in all that dough, butter and sugar.
It’s pretty easy; not like brain surgery or writing a novel. I’m slapping icing on those warm babies before McClane blows the villain away with a bullet through his own shoulder.
(You can find this cinnamon roll recipe in the back of Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell.)
Don’t forget to pack me in your suitcase!
Gerhard J van Vuuren says
I must admit that I am working on three messy documents at the moment. But it is for three different story ideas so that is ok then?
One is the novel I’m supposed to be working on but I’m trained as a painter and I’ve always had a second canvas around to clean my brushes on when I do a painting. The second canvas brush cleanings then become the basis for the next painting
I guess I’m doing the same in writing. Writing one story but cleaning my mind from extra thoughts in a couple of other documents. For me it is one way to keep the story focussed.
M.L. Eqatin says
Wow, I guess I don’t write like anybody else. But it works fine for me.
I write like I used to design houses for people: first you sit down and find out what they want. You add your knowledge of what the available techniques and materials are and their capabilities. You discuss their budget. Then you do a bunch of rough drafts, selecting two or three designs which are the best to present to the owners. After they pick one, you polish that.
Each reader is like the person who moves into a house. They bring their own furniture, repaint the walls, maybe add landscaping. The idea is to create a dwelling place that enough people are willing to rent.
If you try to suit everybody, the result will be ba building so bland that nobody will stay long or remember the place.
Ann Isik says
Gerhard: thanks for the painting tip! I’ll be using it! I trained as an artist too.
On Cindy’s puzzle method: As an artist, I collage a lot and it amused me to find myself making what I’d already written into tables and cutting and pasting ‘scenes’ and gluing them into the table in different places: playing with the interactions of the characters and their spaces and times. The puzzle method, yes, even if of rectangles rather than jigsaw shapes! Now I need more structure so the Snowflake Method is the way for me to go.
Just a humble opinion from a freshman: for those who have mentioned running out of inspiration by working to an outline, need the initial outline be rigid? As the characters reveal themselves, including my character of ‘place’, the plot may well change, so can the outline not change likewise? I am fully expecting this from previous attempts at fiction.
Also, as I’m just about to ‘Snowtline’the scenes of my novel in progress, I re-read Randy’s article on ‘Writing the Perfect Scene’ and recommend this.
It was quite a revelation reading (properly)about ‘Motivation Reaction Units’ and hope Randy does a series of blogs on the subject of ‘What a Scene’ is as I think I’ve discovered that some of what I’ve already written as ‘a scene’ was only part of a scene, but that the whole scene (working to the MRU rule) takes place in different places and times (times as in memories rather than say, hyperspace)! Am I confused or is this workable?
Thank you Cindy for your help and insights.
Darrell Proctor says
I just finished the first draft of my novel using the Snowflake Method. Without the structure of the Snowflake I would never have gotten anything on paper. My wife is a painter and her creative process is totally different than mine. She is by nature the structured one in our house. I am the one more likely to have that moment of inspiration that needs a disciplined approach. Several years ago she began a novel but abandoned it. I believe that using Cindy’s Puzzle Method she could finish it. I’m sure there are countless people out there are like my wife and I – just waiting for someone to show us the way. Thank you for your Christ-like attitude in presenting an alternative to the Snowflake Method.