WFMAD Day 2: Think Big, Write Small, part 1

Wow! It is so exciting to read all the comments you posted to my blog, Facebook, and Twitter yesterday! I don’t keep hard and fast numbers about this challenge, but it sure seems like we have a record number of participants, with more joining by the hour. How cool is that!!??

So…. how did it go?

Did the words come fast or slow?
Did the characters whisper to you, or were you writing “from your head,” i.e. thinking things like “I must insert a clever foreshadowing of the B plot into this conversation”?
Did you feel triumphant or afraid? Or, perhaps, a little of both?

Do you have a specific writing question that you’d like an opinion on?

Yesterday I received this question, “I’m at a point where I’m stuck, and I don’t know where to go from here. Any advice?”

I feel your pain!!!

Writing a novel is an absurd idea. You have to create a world, nay, an entire universe, with a past, potential futures, personalities, sometimes a whole new culture, and then you insert the thump of a human heart and breath life into your clay characters and tell them to dance. You try to write down the steps to the dance, and make it flow, and make it interesting, and keep it under a billion words. Oh, and make sure that someone will find it marketable.

What kind of crazy person does that?

We do, my friends. We word-addled tribe of dreamers. That’s the good news and the bad news, because it’s easy to get lost when wandering in imaginary worlds. It is no fun feeling lost.

This is where THINK BIG, WRITE SMALL helps. You’ll use that in today’s prompt.

Ready… Give yourself a gold star (or ice cream) for making it to Day Two!

Set… Take a few minutes to shift gears from the outside world to the inside world. Close your eyes and breathe slowly. You are allowed to take this time for yourself.

Today’s prompt: Write down what you think might be the larger arc or issues or themes of your book. It’s OK if you don’t know for sure. You can change your mind down the road. If you don’t yet have anything as a specific as a theme, then try to summarize, in one or two sentences, the central conflict in your story. It can be the internal character conflict, or the external conflict he is facing in the world. (Or both!) This is your BIG PICTURE. It is the heading on your compass.

When you get stuck, reread your Big Picture statement(s). Say it aloud, write it in the sand, translate it into Bulgarian (or your language of choice), and then ponder:

1. What scenes can you invent that reflect the conflict of the Big Picture? Make a quick list of five such scenes.

2. Do you need to introduce new characters to complicate the Big Picture? Quickly write a few lines about five possible characters.

3. Your main character could likely use another layer or two of nuance. Which is a polite way of saying he needs some flaws. In one of your new scenes, or in conversation with one of the new characters, have your main character behave badly. Allow him to be a jerk, or make a foolish decision, or make a mistake.

Part Two comes tomorrow!


17 Replies to “WFMAD Day 2: Think Big, Write Small, part 1”

  1. I got so busy yesterday I didn’t get it done. But today I got my 15 minutes in. I wrote about yesterday’s prompt as well as today’s. I intend to complete this challenge. Thanks for the prompts. It keeps me writing even as I keep procrastinating on pulling my stories back up and working on them. But today’s prompt helped, I have an idea where to go with one of them that I was stuck on.

  2. I haven’t been using the prompts. Its been YEARS since I’ve had a writing practice, so the last two days I’ve just randomly written what comes off the top of my thinking. Stream of consciousness. As my head clears, maybe the writing will take on more form. I’ve had a lot going on in my life, so this is perfect timing.

  3. I’m a day late in finding this challenge, but I’m in and will even try to make up my lost 15 minutes from yesterday!

    Since you asked if we have questions, I do have something that’s been stalling my writing and you might just be the perfect person to answer it… The middle grade book I’m writing is (as is often the case for newbie writers) based largely on some of my own experiences. A lot of it is still somewhat shameful and hard to think about, much less write about for the world (or worse, my friends and family) to see. Any advice on how/why to push past those fears? 🙂

  4. I do stream of conscious writing every day – Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages suggestion from her book The Artist’s Way. However, your prompts are a different direction for me. Thank you! I have been slowly writing a book for my children, and I mean Slowly. I think your prompts may help me along. Thank you!

  5. The best I could do yesterday was write my weekly blog post, which I did. But I’m hoping to get to your prompt later today, because it’s just right for where I am in my long-ignored novel…

  6. The words usually come pretty fast and easy. Sometimes I find myself stopping and struggling over a particular word choice but I do my best not to let it stop me for long, I’ll mark it as something to come back to by highlighting or bolding it.
    Today’s prompt threw me at first – I’m not writing a book, I don’t even have any ideas for books. I usually write reactions and reflections, poetry and ponderings – not stories. Then I remembered that I had just mentioned a story I’d started during a class I took through my district in my day one writing. So I went with that. While it didn’t result in great writing, it did give me a deeper understanding of my goal with the book and a potential structure for a series.

    I’ve created a google doc that I’ll use each day. Feel free to check it out here:

    I also uploaded the rough beginnings of my kids book so that you can see it here: I’d welcome any feedback!

  7. I have no interest in writing a book, and fiction has never been my thing…I just want to write. So these 15 minutes are helping me get back to that desire.

  8. Your prompt today forced me confront some serious issues with my WIP. I’ve been feeling a little lost and stuck lately, and really couldn’t figure my way with it. Today’s prompt reminded me of what the true center of the story is, and helped me identify certain options to take with presenting the true conflict. Thank you very much.

  9. I came a day late to this challenge, and I didn’t really follow the prompt on the first day (I’m doing two today), instead I just wrote a scene from one of the stories floating around in my head. And I feel fantastic about it. It’s pretty rough, still, but I can move fowards and backwards from it. Also, today’s prompt is just what I needed. I need to think about the big issues in my writing, rather than just the little details that can bog me down. Thank you!

  10. I’m loving WFMAD!! I can’t wait to see what the month brings.

    Yesterday I wrote answers to your first prompt and made up the rest of my fifteen minutes by using one of your prompts from last year that I didn’t finish, because I was scared to write it. Ironically, it was the post where you suggested that we write about the things our characters – or ourselves – are scared of. I had lots of fun doing this, and I wrote for much longer than fifteen minutes.

    Today, at first I continued with my most prominent WIP, and in this one, because I’ve been working on it a while, I can write about my characters fairly easily. When I logged onto my computer and found your post, I decided to do today’s prompt outside in the garden, because the sun was going down and the evening was cooler. I wrote out my themes on a large sheet of paper and used a different colour pen for each theme – I don’t plan my stories in enough detail so this prompt helps me greatly. Often I plan after I’ve written a fair amount of the story, by which point I know the characters better and I feel I’m in a better position to determine their futures. I don’t know if this is the ‘right’ way to do things.

    One question I’d like to ask is whether you think it is better to write a novel ‘beginning to end’, or write scenes when inspiration hits – or if it depends on the writer? With my current WIP, I write scenes whenever the character shouts urgently at me to write it down, and in the early stages I had no idea how I was going to piece together the seemingly random chapters. Now that I have written so much of my characters story, naturally the scenes have an order, and for me I feel this is the best way. I suppose also it depends on the story you’re writing. That question is very jumbled – I just wondered what you thought.

  11. It was peaceful for a whole half hour this morning on my porch swing. I stopped only long enough in the middle to fill the bird feeder – the finches were giving me quite a beak-lashing for an empty feeder. They didn’t realize that I had to feed me first! Half of the time was spent collecting summer sounds and memories; the other half was working on a character that’s hanging around and needs a voice. Don’t we all? See you tomorrow!

  12. So far, so good! I’ve written at least 15 minutes each day. My daughters are also taking part in the challenge.
    I haven’t had any issues with writing so far. The words are flowing very nicely. Not the best grammar, but I work hard to beat back that inner editor when it’s not time for it to appear. I keep telling myself, “This is not a final draft. It does not have to be perfect.”

  13. OK–this is what I’ve been thinking about my participation in WFMAD. Any words of wisdom anyone?

    . I kind of feel like a poser. I have no characters fighting their ways out of my mind. I have no settings dying to be painted with my words and syntax. There no plot twists, messages, lessons, stories, anything waiting to be brought to life. No poems dancing across the page, or stabbing through the paper/screen with the truth. I have no essays filled with opinions, noticing, wonderings, or truths. I used to have all of these. Where have they gone? And will they ever come back?
    I am not sure if I can divorce myself from the teacher inside me long enough to stop saying, “That’s a really nice sentence. I should use this in a craft study on…fill in the blank… . That leaves me wondering if my identity as a teacher is eclipsing every other part of me. Has the inspiration for teaching engaging lessons sucked the life out of all other inspiration in my life?

  14. Two for two, waiting breathlessly for your next post today. Thanks, thanks for WFMAD!

    Last year’s challenge changed my world…wonder if I can tolerate another such transformation.

    Stay tuned…

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