There’s an old saying about when something’s not working, you’re never going to get a different result by doing the same thing. Or something like that (I’m the same way with wise old sayings and proverbs as I am with clichés – I mangle them to bits, unintentionally).
What with planning for our move to the city and all the details that come with it (decluttering, downsizing, selling the house, finding a condo), I’ve been taking a bit of a hiatus from writing. But as we’re getting closer to our move, I’m finding my thoughts drifting to my writing more and more frequently.
I’m really feeling the creative itch.
Anyway, I recently looked back over the volume of work I’ve produced over the past three years. Out of four different WIPs and hundreds of thousands of words written, I’ve only completed the first draft of one of them, my mystery. The rest all are stalled at various stages of completion. One of them even went and morphed itself into a whole different story, one which doesn’t really suit the original characters.
I have always been a “write by the seat of my pants” kind of writer. I love the thrill of not knowing what’s around the next corner. It keeps the excitement alive for me. So I’ve always avoided the idea of outlining.
But it’s really clear to me that I also work best when I have a vague idea where I’m going. I never had any problems with “writer’s block” when I worked on my mystery. I had no clue what would happen between the beginning and the ending of the book, but I did start out knowing A. whodunnit and B. why whodunnit did it in the first place. And that was all I needed to get to the finish line.
So it’s pretty clear to me that I’ve got to shake things up a bit. Do something different with my writing, because what I’ve been doing isn’t working. Take ELEMENTAL. I love the idea behind that WIP. I love the characters. It’s also a very exciting, action-filled story. And yet … I’ve been stuck at a very pivotal point for a very long time.
It’s the same with my other in-progress projects.
Enter my writing buddy Janel Gradowski. Honestly, she’s done more to keep me on the writing track than anything or anyone else. We email each other regularly, and lately she’s really become focused on her writing. And in one of her regular emails, she mentioned how she’d started writing her ideas for one of her longer works onto index cards, and how magically new ideas have been appearing.
This really intrigued me, and I began looking around, checking out how other writers are using index cards.
And one thing really stands out for me. When you use index cards to pre-write/plot your novel, you’re working with a system or method that is, by its very nature, flexible and changeable.
“Outlining” a novel using index cards isn’t anything at all like my idea of an outline as being rigid and death to creativity.
It’s also a chance to brainstorm, which I love doing. And it opens up the door to making some truly magical connections – connections which I’ve always associated only with the act of writing itself.
So I’m going to give the index card way a try. The beauty of it is, index cards are so small and portable, I can dump an idea on one at any time, any place, as long as I have an index card and a pen handy. So I can start now to satisfy that creative itch of mine.
An aside: one of the things that really jumped out at me while I was looking around for index card ideas – people use index cards for all manner of things, from productivity and goal management, to writing, to homeschooling, to time management, to menu planning to shopping to … the list is virtually endless!
Do you use index cards in some way or other in your life? I’d love to hear about the different and creative ways people put index cards to good use!