Earlier today I had a call with a young lady who is working on her book. She’s been working on it for a while, but she keeps getting stuck. I totally get that. Life happens. You get caught up and drift away from your writing project sometimes. The challenge is that when you make your way back you may find yourself disoriented. You may have lost the thread of the story. You may need a lot of time to regroup and remember what it was that you had in mind before you got pulled away from your characters’ vibrant lives. One way to combat this is to use good writing tools to organize your thoughts ahead of time.
I know…you’re a Pantser, not a Planner. You don’t want to be trapped by stuffy outlines or other such organizational stuff. Okay, I’m not forcing you into anything, but I do recommend a bit of planning. Why? Well, what if you start writing and then maybe you get so busy on your day job and with family obligations that you don’t have time to write for six months? How long would it take you to re-read everything you’ve written just to get acclimated to the story again? Okay, so here are three writing tools to help you get up and running again more quickly.
- Microsoft Word. Using the outline feature in MS Word (or some other word processing program) is the quickest and easiest way to get back in touch with your story and characters. Rather than just scribbling notes, spend a little time planning the basic outline of the story and jot key character notes, especially any characteristics that play directly into the plot. If you’re writing a non-fiction manuscript, outlining can be particularly helpful to make sure you don’t skip a key point or a piece of research you had intended to do. Remember, an outline is a plan. It’s not carved in stone so it can be changed if needed, but it can be a great help getting you back on the path if you lose your way.
- Snowflake Pro. I am wild about Snowflake Pro by Randy Ingermanson. Snowflake Pro is designed to help you develop a book proposal, but I think its most important role is forcing you to think through your characters and plot. Working back and forth between character and plot, you see the relationship between these two key elements of your story and develop a great plan for your manuscript in the process. If you ever get distracted or simply lose enthusiasm for the project, reviewing the Snowflake Pro book proposal will likely reignite your passion for the project.
- Scrivener. Scrivener has become one of my favorite writing tools. You can research, outline, and write all in one application. Scrivener is available for Mac and PC and syncs with a variety of iPhone/IPad apps. You can use Scrivener to develop everything from short stories to screenplays to novels to reports. Scrivener includes cool features like corkboards for pinning notes and name generators to make your writing life easier. If you are pulled away from your writing for a while, a quick review of the notes you made and the photos you saved in the project will have you up and writing again in no time.
None of these options lock you into anything. Writing projects change. They take on lives of their own, but starting on a firm foundation not only helps you build a stronger story, it can help you recover your mojo if you’ve been benched for a while.
Plan to win NaNoWriMo. Reach out to me for a private book development coaching call.