In the past, I’ve run straight into burnout by working too much. But even as I write that, it’s hard for me to say “too much,” when I still wasn’t producing books at a steady pace.
More than once I’ve said, “I’m working crazy hours and… getting nowhere.”
And then I found Storyclock.
So, I spent two days this week, reworking my current story outline so it made sense on the Storyclock template.
It was excruciating at times. (I hate editing my own work, even when it’s just a plot outline.)
As I did that, I realized that one reason I’m usually at my desk before dawn is: As soon as I wake up, I’m trying to preserve that right-brain inspiration & creativity.
I want to get as much of my (usually new) story written, before the inspiration evaporates.
I know that when I stop, even with an outline, I’m going to lose my enthusiasm. Then my work doesn’t flow. It shifts into awkward starts-and-stops.
Eventually, the story just seems to quit working for me.
So, I tend to write & write & write, day after day, never feeling entirely happy with the book.
And then I’m in burnout, and the book is added to the “to finish someday” pile I never seem to re-energize. Not really.
But now, with Storyclock, my stories have rhythm and synergy and resonance.
When in Rome…
Here’s an example.
Let’s say my story is a romance between a pilot and a flight attendant. They meet and the romance begins on a flight to Rome.
And, after that, every major turning point in the story – where the acts break (story beats) – they’re always in Rome.
Finally, at the end of the story, both of them – independently – go back to Rome to remember happier times.
And they accidentally run into each other, and confess how miserable they’ve been, apart, and it’s HEA. (Happily Ever After)
So, Rome is the repeating rhythm. And the reader knows – if only on a subtle level – when a scene is set in Rome, the romance makes progress, even if it’s not always smooth.
Everything else is the mundane stuff that happens between the magical moments (and drama) as the romance grows. And most of that probably isn’t in Rome. Not the way I’m writing the story, anyway.
Sure, those everyday scenes are essential, too. In fact, the mundane scenes make a romance seem more real. After all, that’s what real life is like, right…?
But having resonance and symmetry in the story… it makes it easier to write the chapters.
Or maybe there’s another cue. For example, “Okay, each of the Big Moments in this story happen where my heroine meets someone she didn’t know before, and that person connects her with more of her (missing) past.”
And, with that mindset, and aiming for resonance, I make sure my heroine meets someone new at each big turning point in the story. Also, I do my best to echo the previous Big Moment in terms of tone and style. as well.
It’s not entirely new to me. In fact, by the third act of the story, each Big Moment is a headspace I’m familiar with.
And I can just let the story flow.
That’s an entirely different game, for me anyway.
It’s sort of like baseball
Here’s another way to look at it. Think of your story beats as if you’re playing baseball. You’re going from first base to second base to third, and then home.
Each of those bases may involve some major tension. Your readers will turn page after page, wondering “will the hero/heroine survive this and achieve his/her/their goal?”
The in-between scenes are just the lower-key steps that take your story from one base (or dramatic twist, or plot turn) to the next.
But each base has something major in common… a cue to the reader (and to me, as the author) about the tone & importance of what’s going to happen there.
… And that structure is how I could write another 1k words this morning (after moving & rebuilding three websites). It was almost effortless. I was able to drop right into the headspace I needed.
I’m still astonished. And pleased, of course.
So, the Storyclock system works well for me. I’m sure there are other ways to craft a plot for the same effect, but putting this on a clock-style wheel keeps it simple. And very visual.
If you haven’t already read my article about Storyclock plotting, here it is: Using Films to Understand Storytelling.