Couch to 50K words
July 27, 2022 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Do you know of and recommend book / workshop / website that provides a set plan for writers to follow in order to write a book?

I have a million story ideas and plenty of scenes or half-written plot summaries or whatever else. I also have a million tools for writing character sheets or plot summaries or what have you. What I want is something that kind of combines the whole process into a single program that I can follow along with and get the shit done. Like, in this vein:

Day 1: Develop a short (few paragraph summary) of your story idea.
Day 3-5: Fill out these worksheets to identify and define your main characters and their main characteristics.
Day 6: Figure out the large beats of your plot, according to this template.
Day 7: Revisit what you created on Days 1 through 6. Is there anything you would add, or remove or change to make the different work products hang together?
Day 8-11: ...
Day 12: Write some shit.
Day 50: Edit some shit.

Basically, a combination of writing tools and writing discipline. If it were specialized to the romance genre, even better, but it doesn't necessarily have to be.

I can write whole books. I have written whole books. But it's difficult to find the time and motivation to actually write whole books, and I think it would help me if I had something that told me what to do and what order to do it in.
posted by jacquilynne to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Story Genius is basically exactly this. I went through a workshop series that used it and I’d recommend checking it out for sure.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:54 AM on July 27, 2022

Heartbreathings is a Youtube channel plus website, and the owner sends you a few workbooks if you subscribe to her newsletter. It might also help if you went into the NaNoWriMo forums (currently pretty active because it's Camp NaNo in July) and read about plotting vs. pantsing, and all the other helpful guides they have there.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 12:12 PM on July 27, 2022

It sounds like you want a guaranteed plan/outline, and some resources for that are: For anyone writing genre fiction, I would recommend "Save the Cat Writes a Novel".
For anyone writing romance, I would HIGHLY recommend "Romancing the Beat".

All that said, IME, writing discipline comes down to deciding to write a novel, having a deadline, and then writing something every day. I always want some sort of guarantee, a map I can follow (and I will spend hours coming up with character worksheets, plot outlines), but I usually end up getting bored with the writing because I feel like I already wrote the story.

You've written books, so you know you can do this. Time and discipline? Carve out 15 minutes a day and sit with your preferred implement of writing and start writing. I find having word count goals helpful (ala NaNoWriMo and the 1667 words/day, writing in 500-word chunks), as well as distraction-free writing software -- set to 15 minutes with 250 word goal and go.

I've also found it helpful if I look at writing as a "I get to do this!", blowing-off-steam joy. The idea of 'discipline' to do something that's supposed to be fun can make it less so, if not outright frustratingly difficult. Having a story idea that tickles/delights you is incredibly helpful and makes 'discipline' less of an issue.
posted by sazanka at 1:27 PM on July 27, 2022 [7 favorites]

Couch to 80K may not be quite what you want since it seems like you already know what you want to write and the early sessions are more about idea generating. But I did find it helpful while I was doing it (I did not finish it for a variety of reasons that are not your reasons) so you may find something you can use in the program.
posted by edencosmic at 3:40 PM on July 27, 2022

I'll caution you with this: I have read any amount of these books. I lose interest in using them when I find, as I generally do, that the plot and characters I want to use can't fit them. For example, one asked me to fill out a character sheet with, say, the character's favorite movie (they live in the 19th century, thanks) or to ask a character about their day (je refuse). Others may want you to go through particular story beats (the Save the Cat technique is effective but very widely used).

The most effective such book to me, personally, has been Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method -- writing as a process of finding stones and building a fence with them. (I will say that the book also includes heartbreaking anecdotes about his horrible childhood and watching his dog die. Does a craft book need that? Well, I never forgot it, that's for sure.) In the past, I have had success by combining this method with creating a spreadsheet of wordcounts to be achieved by a certain date. Scrivener is an excellent software to pair with this method.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:11 PM on July 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Seconding Nanowrimo. I also like 85k90 which is a little more forgiving. I use WaveMaker which is like Scrivener but free and cross-platform -- easy to switch between devices to make use of all the downtime in the day.
posted by basalganglia at 5:55 PM on July 27, 2022

Response by poster: I just opened my scrivener install and found several thousand words of a NaNo project I forgot ever starting! So one more for the half finished ideas pile, I guess!

I bought the ebook of 90 Day Novel and am going to try that but there are a bunch of other suggestions here that might work too so if I don't like this one I may move on to others. I do have Romancing the Beat but it is not where I am so I picked up an ebook of that, too.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:48 PM on July 27, 2022

I always want some sort of guarantee, a map I can follow (and I will spend hours coming up with character worksheets, plot outlines), but I usually end up getting bored with the writing because I feel like I already wrote the story.

This is a real problem I have as well, but could never articulate before someone on the NaNo forums put it into words. It might actually be the reason behind the many unfinished stories - I know it is for me.
With my current draft, I've been working on it slowly for a few years now, and it's not exciting or fun anymore because I know it too well, but I also get frustrated because it never sounds as good on paper as it sounded in my head. Perhaps OP is like this as well and needs to write something without any plan beyond a main character and premise?
posted by LoonyLovegood at 11:14 PM on July 27, 2022

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