This week, analyze the pacing of your story. Consider printing out a blank calendar to keep track of your character’s actions or experiences. Select from a weekly or monthly format, depending on the time period your story encompasses. A good resource to try is print-a-calendar.com. Next, fill in the days on the calendar with details about what your characters experienced on those days. This task will hopefully give you a visual confirmation of whether your story’s pacing is realistic. It shouldn’t take four days for your character to drive to work, nor should it take four hours for two armies to prepare for battle. You can also use the calendar to pace incremental character change. By tracking the days on which your characters first meet and their subsequent interactions, you can determine whether the time frame for the changes they experience to their world views are reasonable given their personalities.
Today, consider adding more authenticity to your setting by drawing on the emotional connections you have to places. Think about where you fell in love for the first time or experienced great loss and set your story there. It doesn’t need to be the same city or state necessarily, but you can probably use features from the room where you shared your hopes and dreams with your best friend or the atmosphere in the restaurant where you got dumped for the first time. Setting your story in places from your history can make them become real on the page.
This week, write a synopsis of your novel. Start with only three sentences, one for each act. Then, flesh out the major plot points until you get to 250 words.
This week, choose a book that has a similar feel to the story you’re working on. Read a page or two before you start writing to set the tone for the session.
If a scene isn’t coming together, try using a bulleted list to help you work through it. Include character action, introspection and motivation, as well as interactions with other characters or your setting. Focus on creating a step-by-step list of how one thing leads to the next. Don’t worry about writing complete sentences at this stage of the process. The goal here is to figure out the sequence of events and how your character reacts to or is affected by those events. Once you have a solid list of things to highlight in the scene, work through those bullet points by turning them into prose.