Monday, February 18, 2008

What’s the point? Plot point, that is.

Okay, most of us are writers, right? Whether we are well into a career, have a manuscript or two under our belt but haven’t cracked that ‘publication’ hurdle yet or are still in the ‘thinking about writing a book’ stage, we all harbor dreams of writing that perfect book.

And to write that perfect book, we need to have the perfect plot. Or at least we have to have A plot – someone, probably an editor – will notice if we don’t :o)

How to plot is the million dollar question. And for my money, plotting is the most single difficult issue. My writing friends often ask me – how do you plot? How do you get all those pieces working together in a seamless, cohesive story?

Now I love my writing friends. And I want to help them in any way I can. So I always answer them truthfully: I DON’T KNOW!!!

How can that be? But I really don’t know. It’s humiliating and embarrassing and ego busting. I mean really. I’ve been fortunate enough to have sold over 30 books, and currently have a publisher who is anxiously awaiting delivery of yet one more. Shouldn’t I know what I’m doing by now? Well, shouldn’t I? Shouldn’t I be able to sit down each morning to write, full of confidence as I merrily charge through plot point after plot point, guided by my carefully crafted blueprint that will lead me effortlessly to a stunning and brilliant conclusion? Shouldn’t I be able to write ten to twenty pages a day without batting an eye?

Well, I bat my eyes. A lot. Ticks develop. It ain’t pretty. And it’s demoralizing to look up from the PC that you sat down in front of at 8:00 am, realize it’s 2:30 pm and you’ve written all of two – count ‘em TWO – paragraphs.

Okay. So ALL days are not like that but more than I’d like to count – or admit to – are. And the really weird thing – given all of this turmoil, I still manage to get my books written, turn them in on time and make my publisher happy.

Is there a point to all of this? Well, actually, yeah. I’m a deeply disturbed writer – but that’s not the point today. The point is, we all struggle in this crazy business – with plot, with characterization, with carrying on. And because I know I’m not alone, I want to share something that I hope will help. NO, sorry, it’s not how I plot – that was just a ruse to get you reading. But we can talk about plotting sometime if you’d like. What I want to share are some affirmations that a dear friend shared with me and that have helped me through those two paragraph days so that I can get on to the ten to twenty page days and whip that elusive plot into shape.

Here goes:


* Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.
* I like and respect myself. I know I am a worthy, capable and valuable person.
* I guide my own destiny, and I’m accountable for the results of my decisions and actions.
* I reinforce my successes and correct for errors.
* I easily anticipate and experience events in my imagination before they actually happen.
* I am my own expert, and I am not affected by the negative attitudes and opinions of others.
* I easily balance the needs of my family with my own need to write.
* Creativity flows through me easily and effortlessly.
* I am a talented writer.
* I have a positive expectancy of big success, and I take temporary setbacks easily.
* I am a creative person and develop my plots with confidence and imagination.
* Images and words come easily when I sit down to write.
* I have unlimited potential; I have unlimited creativity.
* I happily accept the joys and responsibilities of being published and welcome success.
* I write daily with excitement, enthusiasm, and confidence.
* I am well-organized and have a vivid picture of my goals.
* I don’t wait for inspiration. Work inspires inspiration. If I succeed, I keep working. If I fail, I keep working. Whether I feel interested or bored, energized or tired, encouraged or discouraged, I keep working.
* I have the craftsmanship and creativity to successfully finish this book.

And yet a few more self-affirmations from Shad Helmstetter: (THE SELF-TALK SOLUTION)

* I have talents and skills and abilities. I even have talents and skills that I don’t know about yet. And I am discovering new talents inside myself all the time.
* I invest my time and energies where I choose. My time and energy are gifts which I guard and give by my choice - - but never by the demands, dictates, or the expectations of others.
* I am a winner. I am absolutely determined to achieve my aims. I am steadfast and persistent in the pursuit of my goals, and I will not give up.
* Each day my confidence in my self-expression grows stronger and even more positive. I express myself easily, without fear or uncertainty.
* Each day I consciously remove from my mind the imaginary bindings of self-doubt and the unnecessary limitations of uncertainty and fear.
* I am never afraid to try.
* I was not created to fail; I was created to succeed. Success is a part of who I am and a part of everything about me.

Okay people. These things only work if you use them. My advice – print them out, place them where you can access them at any time and READ THEM OUTLOUD until you start believing them.

Does anyone else have ‘props’ they use to help them through those tough writing days? Have you relied on affirmations before and have they been helpful? Am I the only one out here who doesn’t know what she’s doing???? Let’s hear it. Disturbed minds want to know.


Betina Krahn said...

Cindy, I LOVE the photos! lol. Too good! And sorta familiar!

Thanks so much for the affirmations! Although reading them until I believe them is a tall order. This could take a while. Still, thanks millions-- I'm starting to read NOW. . .

Helen Brenna said...

Most days I don't know what I'm doing either, Cindy. I used to poo-poo affirmations - I think it's the stodgy old accountant in me just saying, "forget all that nonsense and just DO IT!" - but the more I write, the more affirmations make total sense.

We need to free our minds to create, and a free mind is one that has let go of doubt and negativity.

Now, I'm off to have a ten page day!

lois greiman said...

Cindyyyyyyy, you have another grandchild. I am soooooooo jealous. I ask my kids for grandchildren every day. The only one who seems willing is the one who's not married...or even dating seriously. But I'm not fussy anymore. :)

About affirmations...I keep a book called Try Again Fail Again Fail Better on my desk. For some reason, it's hugely helpful for me. It has a lot of wisdom in it. One of my favorite pearls is "It's not that I'm so smart. It's just that I stay with my problems longer." Albert Einstein.

I'm a big believer in just keepin' on keepin' on.

Hey congrats on the babyhood.

Cindy Gerard said...

Betina, Helen and Lois - glad to hear I'm not the only one who needs that extra push that affirmations can provide. I never used to use them but the deeper I get into the business the more I realize I need them.
And thanks, Lois. Grand kids are THE BEST things ever!!

Playground Monitor said...

We were talking about plotting at our last RWA meeting and one writer said she never plots out a whole book because if she does, her mind thinks the whole book is written and gets bored with the project. So she jots down where the book starts, where she wants it to end and a few ideas for the middle and then starts writing.

I had that happen to me once too. I had a great idea for a short story and did this great detailed outline. Then I couldn't write the story. I'm sure my brain thought it had already been written and why waste brain cells writing it again.

I love quotes. Here are a few favorites:

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. – author unknown

There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going. – Beverly Sills, American opera singer and chairman of the Metropolitan Opera

What would you attempt if you knew you couldn’t fail? -- Dr. Robert Schuller, minister
and author of Move Ahead with Possibility Thinking

If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else. – Yogi Berra

You got to have a dream. If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna
have a dream come true? -- Bloody Mary in South Pacific


Christie Ridgway said...

Cindy: After 30 books I'm also still trying to figure out what I'm doing! I have tons of craft books and yet another was delivered to my door via Amazon on Saturday. It's called SAVE THE CAT and it's a screenwriting book (but I generally find storytelling is storytelling). Still looking for that "surefire" plotting method after all these years!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Marilyn, story of my life--even when I know where I'm going--or think I do--I often wind up somewhere else. It's not always a bad thing.

Hey, Einstein, I never met a problem I didn't stay with until one of us was ready to strangle the other.

Affirmations. Gotta love 'em. I don't know if hope floats, but it sure keeps me breathing. So pile it on, folks--I THINK I can, I THINK I can, I THINK I can...

Did someone say, "Yes, we can!" I'm there, baby. Give me a reason to believe, and I'm there. That includes believing in myself. What's the alternative?

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh, as for writing and plotting and how it's done--heck, it's magic, isn't it? Shazaam!

For those who of us who profess to write by the seat of our pants because we can't explain it any other way--other than the fact that it's the hardest work we don't know how to do but somehow manage to get done--I recommend FROM WHERE YOU DREAM: The Process of Writing Fiction (Robert Olen Butler).

Debra Dixon said...

Love the affirmations! Well, I'm pretty much left-brained so I have a fairly good idea of the high points.

I always "go home to mama" anytime I start a new project. That'd be GMC and Hero's Journey.

I'm a big believer in the uniqueness of writers. Also in the fact that we *change* over time and what used to work doesn't work or it doesn't work for *this* book. So we have to be constantly on the lookout for that new magic "something" that makes sense and gets us through the book.

Being a writer is hard work.

Wait...I need to make than an affirmation... Being a writer is hard work and I enjoy the challenge.

Cindy Gerard said...

Love the quotes, Marilyn.

SAVE THE CAT. I've been hearing a lot about that book. You'll have to let me know what you think, Christie.

And yes Deb - it's hard work and WE DO enjoy the challenge :o)

Thanks for the other rec, Kathy. I'll have to check that one out too along with Christie's and Lois's.

Anonymous said...

I don't know who said, "I can fix anything except a blank page."

It gets me motivated.

Cindy Gerard said...

Anonymous - I have always heard it was Nora Roberts who said that. Anyone else know?

Sarah Tieck said...

Love the affirmations ... my method of writing lately seems to involve a lot of whining about how I can't do it ... which seems to free me to do it. Maybe it is releasing that persistent whiny voice that frees the other one? Don't know. But, great topic! It is comforting to know that other writers struggle, too ... even the ones who've done it before.