Category Archives: Craft & Skills

Momentum Leads to Success

Momentum lead to success. Errr, no, wait. Success enhances momentum. No, ugh. Momentum feeds—hmmm… 

Yeah. That’s it. Momentum can lead to success and success builds momentum. Now that I’ve got that straight in my head, I can talk to you about it. Hi there. As we go through this together, know that I’m talking to myself about building momentum as much as I’m talking to you.  

Momentum is great when we have it. The words pour out and page after page zips by beneath our fingertips. We finish projects and move on to the next. Each completion feeds our passion, goads us on, pushes us farther. And when that sale happens, holy monkey, it’s like we hit the after-burners. Zoom!  

At some point, the glow from the sale begins to fade and though we are still moving forward, our pace slows. Words come harder. It takes longer to finish, if we finish at all. We hit that uphill slog in the manuscript and feel our momentum grinding to a halt like that old, wood-paneled Buick station wagon stalled in the intersection during rush hour.  

Have you been there? Drivers navigating around you and showing their appreciation for your delay with a single-finger salute while you desperately crank the key, hoping for a spark to catch. Sometimes it does and, by some automotive miracle, after the tenth crank as the battery is slowly whirring down – ignition! The words come, slowly at first, but they come and we’re on the move again without too much drag on our momentum.  

Other times, though, you turn that key, breath held, teeth clenched, and pray to the Buick pantheon for a miracle. Clickclickclick. <insert bad word here>. Dead. Deep breaths. Count to ten. Okay. Gotta get moving again. The ultimate destination of Atlanta sinks beneath the immediate need to get the car to the service station across the intersection. 

It’s that change in perspective that’s the key. While we need to keep our ultimate goal in mind, when our momentum slows or stops, we need to set our immediate sights on short-term wins to get moving again. In our unfortunate case here, we need to get out and push this beast out of the traffic flow. Now, a big-ass station wagon doesn’t just move with a body lean. It’s going to take some serious effort to get this thing moving. Feet set, right hand on the steering wheel, left braced against the doorframe, you push. The car leans forward then settles back. Rest for a second. Ready? Eyes on the service station, muscles straining, feet pumping like they did when attacking the sled in high school football practice, the car leans further. Harder. Pushpushpush. The wheel turns. Success! Don’t let up. Pushpushpush. Cross over one lane. Success! The car is rolling freely now. Pushpushpush. Another lane. Steer into the station’s driveway. One final push to get over the storm drain. Pushpushpush. And…success! Now on to the next challenge.  

Writing works the same way. We need to plant out butts in the chair and write. It’s going to be hard at first, but stick with it. As we move forward, we need to define our successes in terms that will lift us up and keep us moving forward. As the successes pile up and our progress mounts, we close in on our bigger goals. And when we hit those bigger goals, boom, after-burners. 

If your goal is to write a novel. Don’t focus on that one thing, break the effort down into achievable milestones (the first page, the first chapter, the first act, the second act, etc.) and acknowledge the completion of each one. Let that accomplishment propel you toward the next one.  

Even backed by a tsunami of momentum, we still have to put our butts in chairs and write. So do it and and use your words to propel your success.

I’m Sorry, I’ve Thrown Off My Groove

Maintaining momentum on your work in progress can be difficult and it’s never more difficult when your own brain gets in the way. All those little doubts that make you question if the scene is any good or if you should throw that outlined plot twist out the window in favor of the new cool idea you just thought of. The indecision is enough to give you that deer in the headlights look, unsure which chattering shoulder angel to listen to.

Do I have the hero kill the villain or do I have them go out for shawarma?

It’s questions and doubts like these that almost always bring my word stampede to a screeching halt. It took me years to figure out that the source of this wasn’t inexperience. It was me. It was my own self-doubt, a.k.a. impostor syndrome, a.k.a. I’m getting in my own way……again.

Now I’ve talked before about WTFS (Write the F-ing Sentence) and while that’s similar, it’s not the same thing. This is more than questioning if their coat should be azure or cerulean. It’s deciding whether or not the romance between two characters that your writer brain suddenly wants to add is going to be a good addition or a distraction from the main plot. It’s deciding if spending the next four pages exploring a character’s backstory is necessary or if it’s better to use that space for a secondary character’s nervous breakdown. The stakes are much higher with these sort of quandaries and it’s that pressure that stops progress. If it were as simple as choosing a hair color then it would be a bad habit that’s easily fixed. However since the root of the problem is a lack of self-trust rather than indecision it’s a lot harder. The only solution I’ve found is a three step process.

  1. Relax. Take a walk or a short breather to let the mental tension and anxiety melt away. The right words will come easier when you’re relaxed.
  2. Take a deep breath and go with the impulse. There’s a reason your subconscious suggested it in the first place. There’s no harm in trusting it…for now.
  3. Re-evulate. After the manuscript is finished, go back and re-read that section. If you hate it you can rewrite that section. Most of the time, when I’ve trusted my subconscious, I’ve really liked the resulting scene(s). But if I ever dislike a spontaneous scene I still won’t regret writing it because I didn’t let indecision stop me from completing the story.

I admit, the first time I tried these steps it felt like I was taking a huge leap of faith. And in some respects I was. But it was only through this that I was able to learn to trust my subconscious and not panic because a chipmunk suddenly wanted me to tell its life story. You’ll never know if the chipmunk’s story will provide the answers you need for later conflicts if you don’t allow it to speak in the first place.

Point A to Point B

Hello everyone. I’m back with my second post this month regarding the subject of momentum. It’s been an appropriate subject for me to think about, as I am deep in a writing project with a very tight deadline and I have a strong need to keep moving, no matter what. Fortunately, the Fictorians have been front and center this month with lots of advice that I can follow. Hopefully some of that advice helped some of you keep moving on your projects too.

In this post though, I’d like to steer away from productivity momentum and rather talk about story momentum. How to keep that pace and tempo that will have your reader moving from one page to the next while never losing their interest. Here’s a few tips I’ve picked mostly related to my favorite kind of story: the A to B.

KEEP THAT TRAIN MOVING

I *love* a good A to B plot, and it’s a big feature of most things I write. Readers will feel what your characters feel, so if you keep your characters literally moving the reader will feel that motion. I’d much rather have my characters discussing something while riding through a field or climbing a mountain then sitting in a room. If I decide I am going to use this method, I will try to identify a destination as early as possible and get my characters (and therefore my readers) moving towards it.

Movement is momentum.

DIDN’T WE PASS THIS TREE ALREADY?

When you are traveling from Point A to Point B, it’s not much fun to see Point A again. One of the early writing lesson I learned from David Farland (Link) was to avoid repeating locations, and to make every location interesting. Bringing readers back to the same setting you have already presented them with kills that feeling of movement you were trying to build in the story. Each new setting offers a sense of wonder as well as progression, bringing the reader back to an already established setting will not produce that same effect a second time.

An exception to this would be to travel back to a setting that has been altered by the story in a significant way. A great example of this is that old standby Star Wars (Episode 4 or A New Hope for you young’uns out there).

This movie is in motion from go, and the main character (Luke) is always going from one place to the next, the movement is nearly constant. One of the only times a setting is repeated in the film is the brief return visit to the farm Luke grew up on. Seeing it a second time, with the farm destroyed and Luke’s Uncle and Aunt dead really changes the context of the setting and the story. It sets Luke forever off on his journey and gives us a real and brutal example of the Empire’s evil.

Also I’m sure there was a lot of spilled blue milk, but we don’t get to see that.

OKAY NEAT, BUT WHY ARE WE HERE?

While not strictly related to the A to B plot, nothing will kill your momentum better than a scene that doesn’t advance anything. This is a bugaboo I have to watch myself for, as I have been known to throw an action scene into my story without giving it a strong connection to the plot. Not every scene needs to move the main plot, but each scene should bring something new to the table in regards to a character or a subplot or setting that you need to illustrate. In the A to B plot, taking your readers to a new location but not using that location to move your story will just feel like filler.

IN SUMMARY

As always, your milage through the A to B plot as well as my advice in general will vary. Pacing and momentum are tricky things to manage, but in summary I find I have the most success maintaining story momentum by doing the obvious and just keeping things (and my characters) moving!

See you next time!

Momentum Because Pixar

Guest Post by Aubrie L. Nixon

prompts. Those clever little devils can really get the creative juices flowing, ya know? When I’m having a rough time creating, I hit up my dear friend Google, and I get myself some clever, witty dialogue prompts. From there, it just comes naturally. When I hit my groove, and I mean really hit my groove, I am able to write for hours. I ride that river of creative momentum and I don’t stop until my fingers bleed. Well, not literally bleed, but you see my meaning.

Finding what brings out your creative flow is VERY important in building up that momentum. Without momentum you are literally stuck, unmoving, not writing! And for us authors that is incredibly bad place to be. Writers Block……a few heathens say it doesn’t exist. That you can just pick right up where you left off….Well to those nay sayers, I say booo!!!! If you are experiencing lack of momentum—writers block, you are among friends here at The Fictorians. We have all experienced writers block at one time or another. Well, thats great Aubrie, but how to I get my momentum back? Well listen up my friend, for I am about to reveal to you a secret that all authors wish they knew….

I have absolutely no idea.

However, I do know that if you don’t at least try to get your mojo back, its gone for good. As I said before, dialogue prompts are very helpful to me. I don’t even always use them for my current WIP (Work in Progress). Sometimes its a completely new story that I spout off with. It really doesn’t matter, as long as I am writing. Another tool I have found helpful is the 22 rules of story writing from Pixar. One of my favorite things from their advice is this:

Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

It literally helps me create new characters and story ideas all the time! You can find the rest of the rules here:

http://nofilmschool.com/2012/06/22-rules-storytelling-pixar

If you remember anything from this post, remember this— Never, Never, Never Give Up. -Sir Winston Churchill

You’ve got this. I promise. It may seem impossible at times, tedious, and trying. But you can do it. All you have to do it keep going. Keep up that momentum and don’t stop.

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-Aubrie

aubreyAubrie is 24 years young. She plays mom to a cutest demon topside, and is married to the hottest man in the Air Force. When she isn’t writing she is daydreaming about hot brooding anti-heroes and sassy heroines. She loves Dragon Age, rewatching Game of Thrones and reading all things fantasy. She runs a local YA/NA bookclub with 3 chapters, and over 200 members. Her favorite thing to do is eat, and her thighs thank her graciously for it. If she could have dinner with anyone living or dead it would be Alan Rickman because his voice is the sexiest sound on earth. He could read the dictionary and she would be enthralled. Her current mission in life is to collect creepy taxidermy animals because she finds them cute and hilarious. She resides just outside of Washington DC.