As I write my first novel I ask myself: Am I plotter or a pantser? If I am a plotter, I methodically plot each aspect of my story before I start drafting. If I am a pantser, I ditch the plan and the beats and draft by the seat of my pants.
As an elementary school teacher, I often read and discuss stories with my students. Recently, we read Giraffes Can’t Dance, a tale about a giraffe who believes he can’t dance because the other animals tell him he can’t. During our discussion, a student said, “Sometimes I feel like the giraffe … like I can’t read or write that well.”
Earlier this year, I took an unplanned but as it turned out necessary break from writing. I was in a productive routine, but then, an earth-shattering loss had me feeling that writing was pointless. My beloved writing group encouraged me to stay connected to the work. Thankfully, I listened and kept a journal nearby. Long, depressive passages eventually gave way to new ideas and character breakthroughs.
In our Incubators, we use story beats, a popular screenwriter’s tool, to help us draft our novels and memoirs. Beats are points of inflection that drive your hero’s journey, both inside and out—actions and reactions that propel your story forward. If you’re intentional about your beats, they can help you get to the heart of your story more effectively. Give your story a pleasing shape that makes your readers happy.
On May 22, 2011, my six-month-old son Camden died. It was and always will be the most devastating and painful thing I’ve experienced. But, it was also 11 years ago. Before this year, I felt I’d dealt with my grief and trauma. That is until I began writing my novel in book inc’s Novel Incubator.