Memoir Tip #119: Tracking First Draft Changes Part 2

In Memoir Tip #118 we talked about some of the changes you should track when writing your first draft. Today we will discuss different options for tracking. How you track will depend on several things:

  1. How you prepare to write: plotter, pantser, or a bit of both.
  2. How you write: by hand, on type writer (if you know what that is), or on a computer.
  3. Your personal style and preferences.

Below I am going to give you a few options for tracking. This is not an exhaustive list and there are likely many ways beyond these to track. In fact, I recommend you try out several different ways, combine different options and even add your own personal twists to them. There is no one “right” way to track changes, in fact it is very personal and the only thing that matters in the end is that it works for you. So don’t be afraid to experiment until you find what works.

Writing by hand or on a type writer

  1. Use the margins to note that a shift occurred and jot down any details you might want to add to previous text and where in the text that might be added.
  2. Use brackets (), {}, or [] to write down any details you might want to add to previous text and where in the text that might be added.
  3. Use a separate piece of paper to capture any details you might want to add to previous text and where in the text that might be added. Just be sure to number them in the script and on the paper so they are easy to find again.
  4. Create a plot grid with a column where you can note changes and any details you want to add to previous text and where in the text those changes need to go.

Writing on a computer

  1. Use comments to enter information noting that a shift occurred and any details you might want to add to previous text and where in the text that might be added.
  2. Use brackets (), {}, or [] to write down any details you might want to add to previous text and where in the text that might be added.
  3. Use footnotes or endnotes to note where a change happened and any details you might want to add to previous text and where in the text that information might be added.
  4. Create a spreadsheet to map your plot with a column to capture any details you might want to add to previous text and where in the text that might be added. Just be sure to number them in the script and on the paper so they are easy to find again.

As you can see there are many different ways to track and the amount of detail you include may vary depending on the change and how far into the plot you are when the change occurs. The method and amount of detail will vary based on your personal style, how much you plan or not, and your method of writing. Find what works for you and run with it. The goal is to get through the first draft.

Writing Quote #119: Anne Frank

“Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.” Anne Frank

Memoir Prompt #119: The Power of Music

Music has a powerful effect on us. It has a way of touching our emotions, connecting our body to sound, and connecting us to days gone by. Today I want you to pick one of your favorite songs. Take a minute and just listen to it. Then put it on repeat and keep listening to it as you set your timer. Remember to use all your senses as you write: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

Begin by writing the feelings the song brings up. How do those show up in your body? Do you feel it in a particular part of your body? Does it bring a warmth, tension, energy or some other feeling? When was the first time you heard this song? Where were you? Who was with you? What were you doing? What was your first impression of the song? Did you like it, hate it, or did it really do nothing for you? Why? What about this song made an impact on you? Was it the music, the lyrics, or perhaps it was the way someone described the song or the song’s meaning to you? Following your thoughts until you come to a natural end. Perhaps the first encounter of the song leads you to a later experience, the one where you finally understood the meaning of the song, or at least the meaning the song has for you. 

You may be able to do this exercise several times for the same song, bringing to light different experiences you had where it played in the background of your life. You may want to try this for several songs, even songs that bring negative feelings. What can you learn about yourself from these songs and the experiences that surround them? Is there a lesson there you can share? Is there a story that unfolds when you follow the soundtrack of your life?

Fiction Prompt #119: The Bar Band

The music danced through the air, jumping and jiving to a beat that forced my body to move, making it impossible to stand still. I tried. But within seconds of holding my body still a toe began to tap or a leg began to bounce and sometimes it was a finger that ticked off the beat. Only a dead person could stand still listening to this band. I wandered into this small off the beaten track bar because I was lost. I didn’t bother looking to see much more than the name because there were a gathering of young men about a block down that were watching me approach in a way that made me uncomfortable. I’m a fit five foot six and can run fast, but I wasn’t sure I could outrun a group of men who knew the area. I figured my best bet was to duck into this small bar and call a cab. I never expected there would be a band, a really good band too, so I never expected to stay. I figured it was safe enough inside and I could still call a cab at the end of the night. But I was wrong about that, so very wrong. 

Memoir Tip #118: Tracking First Draft Changes Part 1

In Memoir Tip #117 I talk about the twists and turns out plot takes while writing the first draft. Many are planned or expected, but occasionally one crops up that is unexpected. This occurs less frequently with memoir than it does with fiction, but it still occurs since our memory is often triggered as we write. These unexpected shifts often Trips up new writers. Instead of continuing to write forward they stop and go back to rewrite the pervious text in order to support this new piece of information. But once they start writing forward again another change jumps in and the stop again. Eventually, they give up because it seems as if their story will never be finished. To prevent this, and to be able to write forward with confidence, you will want to track where these changes occur and possibly even note ares in the previously written text where you want to add details or information during the revising/editing phase. When I talk about tracking the following two questions arise:

  1. What is it I should track?
  2. What is the best way to track it?

Today we will look at what you should track. Now there are a large number of things that may need to be tracked and it can vary greatly depending on the format you are using for your book, but here are a few of the key things to track:

  1. New or unexpected characters
  2. New or unexpected information, tools, skills or weapons
  3. New or unexpected events, situations or obstacles
  4. Changes in the protagonist’s or antagonist’s goal or motivation

The terms “new” and “unexpected” will vary greatly depending on your preperation or lack there of. If you are a plotter, then “new” and “unexpected” relate to anything that wasn’t in the original plot. If you are a pantser, then “new” and “unexpected” are a bit more difficult to define since you likely don’t know the path your story is taking. In this case, I suggest you consider anything that is not in alignment with, or supported by the previously written text as “new” and “unexpected.” If you are both a bit of both, then your definition “new” and “unexpected” will be a combination of the ones I just gave. In Fiction Tip #119 we will look at some of the different ways you can track these changes.

Fiction Tip #118: Keeping Track of First Draft Changes Part 1

In Fiction Tip #117 I talk about the twists and turns our plot takes while writing the first draft; some may be planned and others may not. I also discussed the importance of getting through the first draft. Often new writers stop writing forward when they come across an unexpected change and go back over the previously written text to add the details needed to support this change. But then when they start writing forward again they come across another change and another and eventually give up on the story because they feel as if they will never complete it. They burn themselves out rewriting and rewriting before the story is even complete. To allow you to keep writing forward with the confidence, knowing you will not forget to set up a change, you will want to track where those changes occur and possibly even note areas in the previously written text where you want to add details or information during the revising/editing phase. In my experience the following questions that arise when I talk about tracking.  

  1. What is it I should track?
  2. What is the best way to track it?

Today we will look at what you should track. Now there are a large number of things that may need to be tracked and it can vary greatly depending on your genre, but here are a few of the key things to track:

  1. New or unexpected characters
  2. New or unexpected information, tools, skills or weapons
  3. New or unexpected events, situations or obstacles
  4. Changes in the protagonist’s or antagonist’s goal or motivation

The terms “new” and “unexpected” will vary greatly depending on your preperation or lack there of. If you are a plotter, then “new” and “unexpected” relate to anything that wasn’t in the original plot. If you are a pantser, then “new” and “unexpected” are a bit more difficult to define since you likely don’t know where the story is headed. In this case, I suggest you consider anything that is not in alignment with, or supported by the previously written text  as “new” and “unexpected.” If you are both a bit of both, then your definition “new” and “unexpected” will be a combination of the ones I just gave. In Fiction Tip #119 we will look at some of the different ways you can track these changes.

Writing Quote #118: Anne Rice

“That process by which you become a writer is a pretty lonely one. We don’t have a group apprenticeship like a violinist might training for an orchestra.” Anne Rice

Memoir Prompt #118: Storms

What is the worst storm you have ever encountered? Were you prepared for it or did it catch you off guard? Today I want you to write about that storm. So set your timer for 20 minutes and remember to use all of your senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

When did you first find out about the storm? Was it in advance, as it was coming in, or after it already hit? Where were you? Who was with you? What were you thinking when you first heard about or noticed the storm? Did you discuss it with someone? If you had time what did you do to prepare for the storm, if anything? If you didn’t have time to prepare, what were you thinking as the storm came upon you? If you heard about the storm in advance did the news predict the storm accurately? Did you believe them or did you think they were just sensationalizing how big the storm would be? Write what was happening as the storm came toward you and upon you. Who was with you? Who wasn’t with you, but you were worried about? Why wasn’t this person with you and where were they? What happened as the storm reached it’s worst? Did you lose power? Did trees fall or fly? Did the river overflow sending water up to or even through your house? Write through the worst until the storm settles and passes. Take stock of your situation after the storm. What impacts did the storm have on you, those you care about and your possessions? How did you come out of the storm compared to others in your area? What did you learn about yourself, your family, and your surrounding community due to this storm?

If you have been in many storms consider writing about each one. It is amazing what we learn about ourselves, our habits and our community when we look back at such impactful events. Is there a lesson or message in there that you can share?

Fiction Prompt #118: Wind Storm

The wind whipped the trees outside Caitlyn’s house, bending them as if they were mere twigs, sending their blossoms swirling in the air like snow. She could hear the howl loud and clear over the voices coming from her television. The newscast yesterday mentioned heavy rain but never said a word about high winds. If she had known, she would have brought in trash cans and made sure everything outside was secure. Just then, the television lost signal leaving her alone with nothing but the sound of the wind as it rushed past her house. She hoped the power would stay on, she didn’t like being without electricity. The harsh weather and no power was too close to the types of scenes she saw in horror movies, the thought alone sending a shiver down her spine. Her black and white tuxedo cat, Wink, paced the room, unsettled by the building storm. She squatted down to coax Wink over when the room went black.

Memoir Tip #117: Writing the First Draft

Writing the first draft is often difficult, but it is the key to your success. Unlike fiction writing where the end is not always clear; in memoir we know how the story ends. However, memoir has it’s own complications. Sometimes we get so caught up in the message we want to portray that we stifle the action or omit situations because we’re afraid they don’t show support for what we ultimately want to say. Other times we worry about what people will think about us or what they may think about the way we portray them in our story. When we hold back on the first draft we often find ourselves with a flat story; which is the last thing we want. My recommendation is don’t think about any of that when writing the first draft. Instead sit down and allow yourself to write freely. To write freely keep the following things in mind:

  1.  Don’t think about a message you want to send your readers, write what happened starting with the trigger or inciting incident
  2. Don’t dismiss anything that comes up, write down every situation that comes to mind in relation to the story you’re telling, even if it seems unrelated or tangential 
  3. Don’t worry about what other people might think or say, write exactly what happened from your perspective
  4. Don’t get stuck only in emotions and internal thought, write down the action in each situation 
  5. Don’t try to make sense of the events and flow of the story, just get the different situations down on the page

The first draft is meant to be a starting point, not a finished product. If you sensor yourself this early in the process you are likely to miss some of the best insights and situations. It is often in the moments that seem unrelated or tangential that we find tension and conflict that adds to the story we are trying to tell. Sometimes our portrayal of people says more about us than it does about them. And when we write the action of each situation we often see things in a different way which leads to new insights. Allow yourself the freedom to write everything in this first draft; after all, you will have plenty of time to massage your message, clean up your portrayal of people and omit unnecessary information during the revision process.