The Barbie Jeep Method: Part 2

After writing in high gear for the past few weeks and finding myself stuck, I thought about the Hero’s Journey workshop I took with Stevan Allred and Joanna Rose this spring. We had homework–making a giant picture of our character’s journey and filling in the various components we were learning about.

These are my plot notecards--and the number of them made me realize my plan for the third section of my novel was way too complicated.

Putting my thoughts on paper for that class helped me craft a number of important plot developments.

So I decided to try the pen and paper method again. I woke up one morning at 4 a.m., found a pile of blank notecards and wrote down all the scenes planned for the third section of LOST NOTES, my historical novel about a fainting pimp.

There were 18 scenes and plenty of characters. That seemed like way too much to squeeze into a third of a novel, even an epic. So I went about putting the notecards in order and then getting dreamy about them.

First I figured out where I took the wrong path–my protagonist’s reaction to an unexpected situation, which I fretted over at the time. By changing that one decision, I found a way to compress the major events, eliminate a number of scenes, put a final antagonist on the page sooner, and shorten the overall timespan.

A day after my notecard experiment, I opened a blank computer document and rewrote my story outline. It’s not an official outline, or even a summary, but it’s a record of how my brain reconnected the pieces. I’ll use that document to move forward. As with all writing solutions, my breakthrough caused a few new problems. I hope to work through them as I move forward. Slower, this time, but with a better sense of direction.

Then again, my friend Emma Burcart reminded me, “I would love to see you give yourself a break and just write through to the end. This isn’t the only draft you are going to do.”

So that’s the plan. To keep writing.

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
This entry was posted in Fiction, Plot, Revision, Writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Barbie Jeep Method: Part 2

  1. Yuvi says:

    LOVE how you walk us through your struggles, Laura. So refreshing and inspiring. Particularly since I’m in a similar space: I just need to write through to the end, too.

    • Thanks, Yuvi! Same to you–you walk us through your struggles with your presentations with such grace and humor and help us writers laugh at our own frustrations and road blocks. Can I tell you how excited I am that we’re both working on endings? I look forward to continuing the discussion and checking in with you about progress, tying arcs together and eventually calling it done.

  2. Liz says:

    i second that, laura. keep writing. you have a fabulous story and a truly unique voice. just get it down on the page.

    • Thanks, Liz! I’ll keep chugging. Or mucking. It feels good to have momentum again, even though it’s going slower than I want. At least maybe that means I won’t write myself into another dead end quite so fast!

  3. Notecards…Been there. 🙂 haha

    I agree with your friend, Emma, here. Keep writing. Don’t worry. This is only your first draft. 🙂

    But, if you insist on continuing to work yourself like you have been, you’re going in the right direction. 😉 You have some lovely methods that I’m not ashamed to say I mimic when I get stuck. 🙂

    • Hurray for notecards, Emerald! Emma’s advice is great for anyone who is working on a first draft–or any draft, really. I’m glad some of my methods work for you. It’s so fun to find inspiration in each other’s blogs, isn’t it?

  4. bridget harwell says:

    I tried note cards and never seemed to benefit from it. But your plot sounds quite complex so I can see how a visual layout could be helpful. That little voice that said your character’s reaction was off, seems like an important moment. I know I didn’t always want to pay attention to what a character had to tell me, especially at three in the morning…especially if it meant a whole lot more work…but, I believe character’s are rarely wrong. They spring from your creative soil…that really mysterious stuff.
    Really interesting to read about your process. Thanks, Bridget

    • Bridget, I definitely think this was the most useful notecard experiment I’ve done. It helped me, having all those scenes in my head, to allocate one card to each one. And the biggest epiphany was how many notecards I ended up having.

      You make great points about characters being right, even if we’re not listening to them fully! They’re fully grounded in the story, and our subconscious. I struggled so much with that one particular scene, and then decided on a direction and kept going… straight into my dead end. An interesting moment in the process, and one that got me back on a better track than the one I was heading down.

  5. I’ve read some interesting posts the last week on writing straight through–no editing, no second guessing. Just writing. A Nanowrimo thing I believe, though I’ve never tried that approach. Enough people I respect are suggesting it I may give it a go.

    • Fascinating, Jacqui! Let me know if you try it. I’ve always been one to circle back when I get stuck in a draft, and usually what I learn about the story or the characters helps me move forward. But then again, I imagine there are benefits to continuing to move forward. I’ve often heard we’re not supposed to edit our first drafts!

  6. brittneehenry says:

    Sometimes it is important to take a break – but if you’re like me, the longer the break from the story, the harder it is to get back in the swing of the story… But thanks for this post, as this break is what my fitness trainer would call “active rest” where you take a little breather, but you’re still doing the exercise of writing. Thanks for sharing. I may try this with a current story that has stalled.

    • Britnee, well said! The longer the break from the story, the more that world feels distant and less accessible. I’ve really gotten very little done this week, but I love the concept of “active rest,” where things are still percolating, even if they’re not moving forward with any sort of speed or accuracy. Thanks for sharing!

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