I went to a webinar this week where the W plot was explained. I'd seen this before, of course, but the way this presenter explained it, it suddenly clicked with me. Choirs of angels sang. My new book didn't merely make sense; the storyboard virtually wrote itself.
Had you asked me two weeks ago what I thought of the W plot, I probably would have hemmed and hawed and said I don't use it. Today, I could gold plate it and send it to all my friends as a Christmas gift.
How does this happen? That one day a tool seems ineffective or not for you, and the next it's your greatest gift from God?
Sometimes, we're not ready for a trick or a tip when it's explained or taught in a workshop. I know. I know...after 50+ books I should have been ready years ago...but I wasn't.
Or maybe it's the teacher.
This particular teacher, Liz Pelletier from Entangled Publishing, was very knowledgeable and very casual about the W. It was like they were old friends or lovers. She knew this technique. That came through in her teaching.
My point in this post is to be open minded. You never know when somebody's trick is going to click for you.
But my second point is that you -- yourself -- should begin making a list of tricks and tips. Every time you begin a new book, you shouldn't reinvent the wheel. You need a synopsis. You may need character studies. (I personally get to know my characters in the first three chapters...not a technique I recommend (LOL) since I tend to rewrite those three chapters five different ways until I find the characters I really like.)
You may do a storyboard or an outline. (I can't work without them.) You may have character lists, research forms...whatever. These things aren't just ways of accumulating the information you need for your story. They are also triggers for your brain. I think I use a different part of my brain when I come up with a story and another part when I'm bringing scenes to life. So stimulation is good. :)
I, personally, have also created some forms and techniques. Like the could, might, must and should list and the trusty list of four (five if I feel like explaining REAL subplots which I usually don't). One paragraph story summaries help me focus my story. I have four different types that give me four different versions of the story so I can choose the one that works best...before I storyboard. I work hard to figure out my stories because it saves time and revisions.
And who doesn't want to save time...or lessen revisions?
If you want a career as a novelist, especially a romance novelist where the more books you can produce per year the better, figuring out your process is a time saver. It helps you develop routine and order, habits -- if you will -- that allow you to consistently produce.
So keep trying new tips and tools and start taking a look at your own process. Keep notes or a binder with your tools/forms in it. And go back to that every time you start a book. Form a habit that will serve to jumpstart your brain and also get you working in the right direction right from day one of a new book.